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Friday, October 30, 2020

Stock Your Medicine Cabinet the Right Way



Is your medicine cabinet ready for anything? What if you get the coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know.


Most of us have medicine cabinets that still contain the last two tablets of the flu medicine we desperately needed two years ago, three pain relievers we bought because we couldn’t find the first one when we needed it, the nasal spray we never really liked … you get the picture, and it isn’t pretty. Leftovers, products that didn’t work — they’re in there. And so are items so old we don’t want to know. And maybe, just maybe if we root around long enough, we can find the thing we need when we need it. 

What to Take for COVID-19

The coronavirus is here to stay. If you think you may have it, you may wonder what to do. For the latest updates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), go here.  There has been some controversy over which pain reliever to use, and whether one might make symptoms worse. The first thing to know is that no over-the-counter medication will treat the virus itself or reduce the time you are sick; they simply relieve symptoms. 

That said, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) all help lower a fever and reduce body aches. Acetaminophen can be taken according to the directions on the label; higher doses can cause liver damage. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Early on, there was concern that taking it might worsen outcomes for coronavirus patients, but that does not appear to be true. Make sure to take it with food, and avoid using it if you have kidney or ulcer problems. Naproxen is another NSAID that is similar to ibuprofen, but can last longer, up to 12 hours. The same caveats apply to naproxen as to ibuprofen. 

If your doctor has ever told you not to take one or all of these pain relievers, then don’t take them for coronavirus without consulting a medical professional. However, for most people, they appear to be a safe, easily available remedy when taken as recommended for body pain and fever.

Avoid Combination Products


Older folks and people with multiple chronic conditions should avoid products that combine a variety of medications to treat multiple symptoms. For example, DayQuil and NyQuil. Most of the products in these combination items are available individually, and often for less money. The individual medications, such as a pain reliever, cough suppressant, and decongestant, can then be used (or not) to target specific symptoms. 

Many of these combo products may even contain drugs that cause side effects that would be contraindicated for older adults and those with certain chronic conditions. Benadryl (diphenhydramine), for instance, which is an antihistamine, has the potential side effect of causing dizziness, drowsiness and falls. Another danger is that many of the cold/flu combination products contain additional Tylenol (acetaminophen). Many people may not realize this and will often take more Tylenol separately, leading to dangerously high levels of acetaminophen — a leading cause of liver failure. 



But this is one area where it’s not too hard, or too big a project, to clean up and prepare. First, start by emptying your cabinet completely. That’s right, take every last bottle, pill and box out so you can wipe out the area. Next step, go through and throw out everything that is past its expiration date. Yeah, maybe that aspirin is still okay if it just expired, but toss it anyway. What you’ll have when you’re done is a cabinet full of fresh products that will be ready and able to serve you for a long time. 

Next, toss anything that you don’t use. You know the products: you tried them once, and hated the taste, or how they made you feel, or the way they didn’t work. Put them in the circular file. You should be left with a small amount of products you like that are well within their use-by date. That’s a great start! Now, you can fill in the “blanks” in the small arsenal of remedies that will come to your rescue should you get sick. To make sure we got the best, we used a team of doctors, nurses and pharmacists to recommend their go-to items. Here, then, is what a well-stocked medicine cabinet might contain. Customize it for what you will use most often.


  • Tylenol Regular Strength Pain Reliever (acetaminophen). Effective for headaches and fevers, acetaminophen has the added benefit of few drug interactions and a high degree of safety. With fever being a hallmark symptom of the coronavirus, this is your first line of defense, and it works on muscle aches and pain, too. 
  • Advil Coated Tablets (ibuprofen). Unlike acetaminophen, ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory and works on alternate pain pathways. Dentists recommend it for a temporary toothache, and ibuprofen is even better at killing muscle and body pain than acetaminophen. But it can cause gastro-intestinal upset. For optimal results, alternate the two drugs to reduce pain.
  • Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough and Chest Congestion DM Non-Drowsy Liquid. When you get a cough, you want something that will let you sleep without being interrupted by fits of coughing and help you get rid of mucous. The dextromethorphan will help you rest while guaifenesin takes care of mucous buildup. 
  • Zyrtec 24 Hour Allergy Relief Tablets. For fast allergy relief that doesn’t make you sleepy, try these highly recommended tablets that users swear by.
  • Afrin (oxymetazoline). This topical nasal spray, used for congestion, can be a better option than taking a product such as Sudafed, especially for older adults. It has more of a local effect and less potential to aggravate heart/blood pressure issues than taking oral Sudafed. 
  • Visine Original Redness Relief Eye Drops for Red Eyes & Eye Irritation. The active ingredient, tetrahydrozoline, is an effective decongestant that will constrict blood vessels and leave you looking and feeling better fast.
  • Zaditor Antihistamine Eye Drops. If itchy eyes are a problem, these drops will get down to the root cause. The medicine they contain is very similar to prescription drops, and it works fast. Keep another bottle in your car if you are prone to sudden onsets during allergy season. 
  • Pepto Bismol Liquid. It’s cheap and it works. Health professionals gave it the nod because it deals with multiple symptoms: nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea. One product to treat a variety of complaints.
  • MiraLAX Laxative Powder. For a different problem, try this gentle laxative that works with your body’s natural processes. “It’s relatively inert and not absorbed by the intestines,” says gastroenterologist Austin Chiang, who likes that it doesn’t lose its effect over time. You won’t get the bloating, cramping or sudden urgency caused by some other products.
  • Tums Antacid Chewable Tablets. Heartburn goes away quickly after chewing up and swallowing these delicious tabs that come in a variety of flavors. Put a package in your purse or wallet for relief whenever and wherever you need it. 
  • Neosporin Original Antibiotic Ointment. Hands down the best germ-killer for minor cuts and scrapes. Three ingredients combine to give you protection and keep wounds moist for less scarring, and it doesn’t burn. If you’re one of the rare people with an allergy to this ointment, stick with bacitracin antibiotic alone.
  • Solimo Melatonin 3mg. Can’t sleep? Melatonin supplements are natural, mimicking the hormone activity in your body. It’s non-addictive and won’t make you overly drowsy like some medications. 



Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


Sources:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors




Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Five Ways to Reduce Costs in Retirement



When you start living on a fixed income, you may need to cut expenses. Here are five ways to substantially lower costs.


Many of us are surprised by how many expenses have to be covered by Social Security and perhaps a small retirement account when we no longer have a paycheck. The stark reality may be that we simply can’t afford to continue our previous lifestyle. 

To add to the problem, unexpected events often carry financial penalties. Perhaps you had to quit work earlier than you’d planned, or you may have had some big medical bills hit during your last years of saving. Maybe the old car finally gave out. There are a million things that can derail retirement planning, while it’s rare to find that expenses are less than expected.

While you may no longer be able to bring in money, there are many ways to lower your costs. Some of them can add up to a substantial sum; others can find you a few hundred extra greenbacks a year. Whether you need to shave off a big chunk of expenses or just want to create some wiggle room in your budget, reviewing these five major costs can help you achieve your goal.

  • Analyze Your Spending
The first step to cutting costs is to figure out where you’re spending. That can be as simple as writing down every outflow with pen and paper for a month. Or, you could use a free app such as Personal Capital or Mint to track income and expenses automatically by connecting your banking information. The apps will keep a running tally of every expenditure, including the category (groceries, auto, entertainment, etc.). Users can set a budget for each item, and the app will signal if a budget has been exceeded. It’s a great way to figure out if your expected monthly budget is within your income.

 

  • Adjust Housing
Moving to a smaller home can save a bundle of cash. Emotionally, it can be tough to vacate the house where you may have raised your children and thought you’d occupy forever. But financially, downsizing may net you some cash on the sale that can pad retirement accounts. It can also result in lower taxes, utility bills and maintenance costs, and a paid-off mortgage or perhaps a lower interest rate. 

If you still have a mortgage on a home you’ll occupy for many years, check to see if refinancing would make sense. Mortgage rates are at record lows, but there are costs associated with refinancing. Check here to view associated costs and then use this refinance calculator to see if it makes sense for you.

  • Sell a Car
With both of you home, do you really need to have two cars? That second vehicle is costing you in insurance, maintenance fees and a loan payment (if it’s not paid off). Cars also lose value just sitting in your garage, since they depreciate over time. 

If you have a single vehicle now, consider getting rid of it. Public transportation may be adequate, and ride sharing has revolutionized the way we think about everyday travel. A healthy option, if you’re lucky enough to be in a walkable neighborhood, is to use your legs for transportation as much as possible.

  • Move to a Retiree-Friendly State 
Every state has its own laws regarding taxes, and that includes for retirees. Social Security income, retirement funds and even pensions are all taxed differently, depending on where you live. If you’re in a high-tax state, it’s only smart to evaluate what it’s costing you and consider going somewhere else if it would be worth the move. Check here to find how each state is ranked, from best (Florida) to worst (Kentucky).

  • Change Insurance
Most of us stay with the same insurer for years, even decades. That just doesn’t make sense. Insurance companies tend to take advantage of that fact by offering their best deal up front to entice enrollment, then raising rates over time. You can change policies at any time; not just when your policy is up for renewal. So pick a time of year (your birthday is an easy one to remember) and call around for quotes, or use PolicyGenius to automatically shop the market. 

Is your car older? In some states, liability insurance is all that is required and you can opt out of collision and comprehensive coverage. If you’re willing to risk having to replace the vehicle on your own dime if you cause an accident, then you can benefit from substantial savings. 

As for health insurance, you have options for Medicare, and policies should be reviewed every year during open enrollment. Check to see if your usual costs and health care needs would be better met by a Medicare policy (and Medigap coverage) or a Medicare Advantage plan. Here’s help on how to choose. Finally, check out GoodRx for savings on prescription drugs. The app compares prices near you and searches for coupons at no cost to you. 



Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Is a Costco Membership Worth It?



In 2019, Costco warehouse shopping club sold 98.5 million memberships. But then the pandemic came, along with toilet paper shortages and fewer grocery runs. Is it still worth the $60 gold membership, or even pricier executive version?


The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes!” as a record 90% of members renewed for this year, and sales in March were 11.7% higher than in 2019.

Costco was one of the first stores to get serious about masks in the pandemic, and customers appear to love the wide aisles that make distancing a lot easier than at the local grocery store. There was never a need to put arrows in the aisles, because they are wide enough for people to pass down either side while keeping six feet between them. But what you’re really there for are the deals.


Memberships


Admission to Costco comes in a few different flavors. There is a $60 business membership, but for individuals, there are two basic choices. The $60 gold star membership admits the purchaser and one additional member living at the same address for a year. A gold star executive membership commands a $120 fee, but the holder will get 2% back on qualified Costco purchases, up to $1,000. You’ll also get added benefits and discounts on select Costco services. Compare memberships here to check which might be right for you. 

Buy at Costco Without a Membership


Many readers may know that if you go to a Costco with a friend who has a membership, you can shop and the cashier will subtotal your items. You pay your friend back afterward, and you get Costco pricing. But were you aware there’s an easier way? 
Pay your friend up front and ask him or her to pick up a Costco Cash Card that comes in a variety of price points starting at $25. Use your card at any Costco in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada, or even online. It will let you in the store and no membership is required!

You can also buy prescriptions and alcohol at any time without a membership, plus get a flu shot (one of the cheapest available if you don’t have insurance). Another benefit is Costco’s optical department, where you can book an appointment with an on-site optometrist for a low-cost exam with no membership needed. Unfortunately, you can’t shop for glasses or contacts without a membership (or that great cash card!) but you can run over to the food court and chow down, maybe on the $1.50 hot dog combo. 


Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken


If you adore a good bird, perfectly spit-roasted and seasoned, with the aroma wafting out across the back of the store, then you may be able to justify your membership on this one item alone. After all, at only $4.99 for a hefty 3-pound fowl, you are getting enough meat for an entire week. Night one is the warm, toasty bird as is, perhaps with a side of mashed potatoes and green beans. Portion up the rest and put bags in the fridge and freezer, and you’ve got protein for chicken enchiladas, chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken and dumplings, chicken and you name it. Yum! 

As a loss leader that hasn’t risen in price since 2009, the bird is a brilliant ploy to get you to travel to the back of the store, impulse buying along the way. And who can resist, when a similar uncooked squawker actually sells for more than the ready-to-go version? There are only 10 ingredients in the gluten-free wonder, but Costco leaves the spices unnamed so it can’t be duplicated. Even Dr. Oz says it’s one of the “healthiest processed foods out there, especially if you remove the skin.” Oh, but don’t. It’s that good. How to know when there’s a new batch ready? Listen for the bell ringing back in the deli. Now go get one!


Cult Followings


First thing you want to do is drop off your car at the auto area outside for a set of new tires. Costco regularly features a brand at $70 or $80 off the regular price, and they’ll slap them on your vehicle while you shop. Air is always free, and they’ll remove nails as well. Oh, and the gas pump located just outside the store can save another $.10 to $.30 per gallon, so don’t forget to fill up every time you shop.

When you have a membership card in your hot little hand, a magical world opens up to you. The store brand is one of the best things about Costco. The Kirkland name adorns everything from packaged bacon to cashmere sweaters, and the quality is high across the board, while the price is low. Need a sheet cake for a birthday, wedding or other celebration? Forget about the cardboard-flavored rectangles you’ve bought from other stores. Costco delivers an amazingly tasty product you can be proud to bring anywhere.

Watch yourself back in the bakery section — they actually bake their own delicious croissants and chocolate-filled buttery wonders that will make you think you’re in Paris. Pick up a pack and freeze them, or have a socially distanced party where everyone can make their own little croissant sandwiches. 

If those sandwiches need cheese, well, you’ve come to the right place. A constantly rotating selection of stateside and world cheeses will make your eyes grow wide, especially when you see the price. At Costco, a giant hunk will be the same price as the tiny wedge your grocery store sells. Then there are the peanut butter-filled pretzels, the jars of premium nuts, the crackers and cookies and soups and condiments. Your biggest worry will be over-indulgence. 

We’ve haven’t even touched on the giant poinsettias at the holidays, or the pots of flowers that will astound neighbors in summer. How about a space heater for the back patio to accompany the smart wooden gazebo you got at Costco last summer? A new set of luggage? Pots and pans? They’re here, they’re quality, and they’re offered at a great price. 

Another perk is the full pharmacy with vitamins, supplements and make-up. The Kirkland brand is in evidence here, as are some higher-end lotions and name brand goods. Need flowers? Bouquets are fresh and ready to take home. What about the latest bestseller? Or a gift for the grandkids? 

How about coffee? There are always at least a dozen offerings at prices that will make you smile. Like your cup of Joe to be freshly ground? No problem, just go to the handy station after checking out, snip off the top of the bag, put it in the grinder and watch the beans go back into your bag minced to perfection. The coffee smell mingles with the odor of roasted chicken in your cart, making your mouth water as you head to the parking lot.




Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


Sources:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Free Library Resources



Many libraries today provide a lot more than books. Grab CDs for a road trip, download magazines and books, get advice on how to work your new phone, and much more!


You’ve always taken advantage of free book borrowing at your library. Perhaps you grew up going to story time there or visited with your own children. Maybe now you’re taking the grandchildren and continuing the pleasant pastime of choosing which new books will come home to be read at leisure. You may think there’s nothing like opening a new book, knowledge and adventure waiting for you inside. While that will always be a pleasure, there is much more that a trip to your local library, or even some apps that work with your library, can provide.

The public library was an American invention, according to William James Sidis, having had its inception in free parish libraries offered in more than 289 Anglican churches in the colonies. These were subsidized as early as 1701, later growing into the modern system through broad public support, financial contributions from wealthy philanthropists, and donations of large private collections of books. 

Many viewed the advent of the internet as a death knell for the institution. How could the library ever compete with personal computers, when so much information was right at your fingertips? Who would go to the trouble of picking out a book or magazine, when it could be delivered to you just seconds after buying it? E-books would kill the library, according to Art Brodsky in a 2013 piece for Wired. But it never happened. Libraries adapted to the times, and they are stronger than ever today. As internet caf├ęs proliferated, libraries kept in step by offering the use of computers for free. But many people still aren’t aware of all that libraries have to offer.



Your Options in a Nutshell

Want to have some fun with the grandkids? Many libraries facilitate this wholesome treasure hunt that uses a smartphone to navigate a set of coordinates to find a container (geocache) hidden at the final location. At the Denver Public Library (DPL), patrons can learn how to play at Geocaching 101 before downloading a free app that will guide them to locations along the Denver Public Library Series GeoTrail using the DPL Geocache Passport. As geocaches are found, players sign a logbook and record a unique code on their passport before returning the geocache to its original location. The first players to complete the challenge will get a limited-edition DPL Geocoin. Check if your local library or one nearby offers geocaching.


You Can Take It With You


Road trips have been forever changed with the advent of books on CD. Check out a mystery, and you may find yourself at your destination, sitting in the car, unable to move until you find out whodunit. Enjoy a romance, humor, whatever your fancy; an abundance of titles are available and the readers are professionals, sometimes even the author. It’s a great way to enjoy yourself while painting, sewing, cooking, gardening or any other activity that pairs well with a great story. 

Step up the tech and help yourself to a downloadable book, audiobook or music. Volumes that may cost $15 to buy can be downloaded from an app. Many libraries use Libby or Hoopla to offer patrons an array of stories. It is a lifesaver if you have an older adult in your life who is no longer able to load a CD or figure out how to run the Books for the Blind machine.  The audiobooks can be played from a smartphone or voice assistant, such as Alexa. Just add audiobooks to Alexa’s skills, and your loved one can manage everything by voice. You won’t be able to find every book you want, but there is a wide selection with star ratings. The best part may be the number you can download, which is often a generous eight titles a month. 

“I share my Hoopla account with my blind mother,” said one grateful library patron. “That way, even when I haven’t been able to visit her in assisted living during the pandemic, I can download audiobooks for her from home. They are always playing in the background when I call to check in. I think it’s the one thing that’s kept her sane during this time of intense isolation.”

Libraries are pairing with other institutions for innovative offerings. In Colorado, for example, patrons can check out two passes for free for entry to any state park, complete with an activity backpack that contains binoculars, brochures and other educational materials. After the adventure, users are invited to share a photo via a special hashtag on Twitter or Instagram. The Denver library promotes cultural tours, with passes for the Butterfly Pavilion, Denver Firefighters Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Trolly, Denver Zoo, Forney Museum of Transportation, Molly Brown House and more. And you don’t have to live in Denver to take advantage of the deal; any state resident or student attending a Colorado college or university can get a free Denver Public Library card by signing up online. 

Also in Colorado, having a library card grants access to eBooks for kids through Bookflix and TumbleBooks, eMagazines with Flipster and RB Digital, music from Volume and Music Online, and Overdrive for eBooks, audio eBooks and movies. It’s always worth checking the library system in your state capital to see if you can sign up for the ability to use an expanded array of technology.

High-Tech Resources and Learning


Let’s start with the learning component. Have you been reading through this article, thinking you’d love to take advantage of some of these options but tech is a foreign language you never learned how to speak? Fear not. Libraries are a friendly place for you, often offering classes on how to operate your smartphone or computer. And if you’re interested in using one of those handy apps for magazines, say, just ask a librarian. These days, showing you how to download services and even talking you through the process is part of the job. 

What else might you find at your library? “Maker programs” are a whole new category that you may have access to. Think 3D printers, design software, virtual reality (VR) platforms, and audio and video editing software. If your local library doesn’t have a media lab, you might kindly suggest this blog on how to build one on a shoestring. Oftentimes, people living in smaller towns or areas without a strong tax base can find more services in a larger town. Look online or call to see if a nearby city has a 3D printer you can check out, or a VR headset available to try.

Checkout


Remember when you waited in line to check out books? Forgot when they were due? Had to pay a late fee for overdue books — right at the checkout desk, so everyone could see you were a slacker. There was a definite element of shaming. This thinking changed, and modern technology makes it possible for the system to evolve to be much more patron friendly. Many libraries today offer an easy-to-use self-checkout scanner. The best part? The system will email reminders before books are due or alert you that a hold is available. Many libraries have given up overdue fines in favor of encouraging more borrowing, with the idea that increased reading is always a good thing, and the books they lose are out there somewhere, providing an opportunity to learn. Those libraries that do still fine often make the process of paying as painless as possible, employing discretion and a variety of ways to pay. 

What’s Ahead?


Libraries are considering adopting even more new technology. Take facial recognition. While the ethics surrounding it are controversial, some companies already use it to remember a customer’s prior order, or track concertgoers. Libraries are watching to see if it may be useful to simplify access to buildings, resources and services. Perhaps in the future we’ll be able to access our local library around the clock without any need for a library card. 

So-called 5G, or fifth generation, cellular mobile communication is on its way. One use will be for virtual and augmented reality, transforming phones into VR machines with the addition of a headset. Telemedicine is also booming. Imagine a private library space where you could videoconference with your doctor, sharing health information you obtained with a MedWand.  And how about borrowing a drone from your library to fly around your neighborhood, or perhaps it could deliver your books. 

Whether you just want to be able to listen to an audiobook, or you’re ready to edit the film of your grandchild taking her first steps, your public library is a free resource. Yes, we pay taxes to fund them, but you can use your library every day of the year without paying an additional penny. They are open to all, waiting to help you toward your next adventure, whether literary or in the great outdoors! 





Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


Sources:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Thursday, October 8, 2020

Best COVID-19 Test: Fido



Around the world, trained dogs are becoming quick and accurate testers for the coronavirus. Should there be one in every nursing home?


Move over, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp. There’s someone else that can test samples with al-most 100% accuracy, get results in just a few seconds, and works for the cost of a bowl of kibble. And he (or she) doesn’t need to stick a swab up your nose to get a sample. America’s favorite pet has the potential to be the country’s best shot at mass testing.

Dogs have odor receptors up to 10,000 times stronger and more accurate than humans. Sniffer dogs have long been able to detect diseases like cancer, malaria, and viral infections, and warn about an upcoming seizure up to 45 minutes before it happens. Now, researchers around the world are training these amazing animals to detect COVID-19.

German Saliva Tests

In Germany, a double-blind study looked at eight dogs from Germany’s Armed Forces trained for just two weeks were able to detect the coronavirus with a 94% success rate. The animals sniffed saliva from more than 1,000 people, some healthy and some positive. The samples were distributed randomly, and neither the researchers nor the handlers knew which contained the virus.

Canine Airport Testers

At Finland’s Helsinki airport, random animals (including a cocker spaniel returned to a shelter seven times) with no prior experience was trained at sniff detection for 8 to 10 weeks in a state-funded pilot project. Four dogs work in shifts of two at a time, mainly on inbound international flights. Passengers pat their skin with a wipe, which is then placed in a tube near others with control scents. If a dog detects the virus, it responds with a woof, or by pawing or laying down. The suspect passenger is treated to a free swab test. 

The dogs are not smelling the virus itself, according to Dominique Grandjean, professor at the national veterinary school of Alfort in France, who heads a study of dogs that sniff out bombs, cancer, and people who are in need of rescue. Instead, the animals can smell the volatile chemicals emitted by our bodies when the virus infects cells. In his research, which has yet to be reviewed by peers, eight dogs used sweat samples with 83% accuracy (some made accurate identifications 100% of the time). 

Mass Testing Via Dog

Canines testers are arguably superior to current lab techniques, because they only react to active viral infections, not “dead” virus that continues to circulate. Grandjean does not think it’s silly to suppose that dogs — any breed or variety — could provide mass testing. 

“We can have one dog per retirement house that is trained and this dog would be able every single morning to check everybody, just by walking by,” he said. 

“Pet owners could have their dog trained in order to search for Covid, but not only for them,” he mused. “If we had 10,000 dogs able to sniff for Covid, well, that means that every dog should be able to sniff 200 to 300 samples a day, so that means 2 to 3 million samples a day.”

Some caveats remain. Scientists are still working to teach the dogs to distinguish between different viruses, such as those which cause flu and the coronavirus. However, many researchers see tremendous potential in the project, currently being explored in the U.K., Finland, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Lebanon, and Australia.

Physician David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, expressed optimism for the effort:

“If dogs can be appropriately trained, there is a high likelihood that they will have a higher success rate than the current screening strategies, given that they will be able to pick up the scent from wherever it emanates not just for those who have Covid in their upper airways,” he said. “They could work in ports, harbors and airports to limit the risk of travelers returning with the infection.” 

Man’s best friend may be the key to safely reopening entire industries. Good boy!




Click below for the other articles in the October 2020 Senior Spirit


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Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

www.csa.us

Monday, October 5, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!


Image Source: Wikipedia

October 7 - YoYo Ma, Chinese-American cellist


Child prodigy Yo-Yo Ma is an international great, born in Paris to Chinese parents and growing up in New York. At the tender age of four, he chose the cello as his instrument after playing both violin and piano. He was performing by age five, including for two U.S. presidents at age seven. A later stint on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson preceded study at the Professional Children’s School, and then Juilliard.

Ma’s fame is hard to exaggerate, as he has performed as a soloist with the greatest orchestras all over the world. His 18 Grammy Awards come from more than 90 albums, and the breadth of his ability extends far beyond classical music. Ma easily shifts to Argentinian tango, bluegrass, traditional Chinese tunes, and more. He has performed with the likes of James Taylor, Bobby McFerrin and Carlos Santana.

Ma played for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, when the weather was so cold an earlier recording was used for fear strings would snap and ruin the performance. He also performed at the funerals of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and Senator Edward Kennedy, and played a duet with Condoleezza Rice. He was the first performer to pull a bow at the first anniversary on the site of the World Trade Center attack, and he collaborated in a live performance with Sting and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the opening of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

His work doesn’t stop at the concert stage. He has served as a U.N. Peace Ambassador and was appointed to President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Ma was also tapped for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and he co-launched the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Citizen Musician Initiative. For his humanitarian work, Ma was dubbed one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Ma has been married for 42 years to arts consultant Jill Hornor. His extraordinary character and humility are legendary. A child once asked Ma if his cello had a name. No, Ma replied, but will you give it one if you let me play for you? The little girl acquiesced, and his $2.5 million instrument has been called “Petunia” ever since.






Image Source: Wikipedia

October 28 - Bill Gates, American businessman and philanthropist 


Seattle-born William Henry Gates III is the richest person in the world. He made his fortune as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation in the 70s and 80s when personal computing was beginning its domination of the information space. Wearing many hats, Gates served as CEO, chairman, president and chief software architect of the company, as well as being the largest single shareholder through April 2014. 

Gates made waves for his anti-competitive bent, cornering the market with Microsoft products. Perhaps this predilection stemmed from an early experience where hobbyists used a leaked copy of the Microsoft Altair BASIC interpreter that he and a buddy had developed, depriving them of earnings. Gates was a firm believer that software developers should be able to get paid, rather than offering their work open-source. 

IBM adopted Microsoft’s operating system in 1980. The deal didn’t net Microsoft a lot of money, but it didn’t need to. As Gates had anticipated, others cloned IBM’s PC hardware and had to pay for the software to run on it; MS DOS became the standard and Microsoft raked in the profits. And maybe you’ve heard of something called Windows? Launched in 1985, it is still dominant today.

Gates was not an easy boss, sometimes remarking “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” to a subordinate mid-presentation. When employees took longer than he wanted to complete a project, he would comment that he would “do it over the weekend.” And quite likely, he could. An Atari exec demo’ed a game, playing with Gates, whom he defeated 35 out of 37 times. Returning a month later, Gates wanted a rematch, where he won or tied every game. 

In 2006, Gates largely stepped down to work on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with assets of over $34.6 billion, that he founded with his wife. It primarily supports public health projects and is responsible for nearly eradicating polio around the world. Gates pledged $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund and another $50 million to venture companies working to treat Alzheimer’s. The Gates have pledged to leave each of their three children $10 million, giving away the rest, expected to amount to 99.96% of their fortune.






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October 28 - Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO


Indian-born Indra Nooyi grew sales of the food company 80% over her tenure, landing her on the top 100 most powerful women many times, including number 13 on the Forbes list in 2014 and number 2 at Fortune in 2015. She currently serves on the board of tech giant Amazon and helps steer the state of Connecticut as it negotiates the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you might imagine, Nooyi is no intellectual slouch. She holds bachelor’s degrees in physics, chemistry and mathematics, adding a master’s in Public and Private Management from Yale after a move to the U.S. in 1978. 

She made her mark at PepsiCo early, heading the acquisition of Tropicana and then Gatorade (the latter through a merger with Quaker Oats). These products dominated competitors and propelled her to the top of the company. Her push for Performance with a Purpose tasked the company to increase growth over time while helping society and working toward a greener environment. Her classification of products as “fun for you” (chips, soda), “better for you” (diet or low-fat options) and “good for you” (oatmeal, etc.) was novel, and propelled the company toward a host of healthier offerings that sped sales past those of competitors. She also attacked waste in packaging, conserved water, switched to renewable energy and began recycling. As of 2020, U.S. facilities run on 100% renewable electricity.






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Sources:

https://www.wikipedia.org

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Taking a Bite Out of Dental Care Costs



Dental care is as expensive as it is important, yet it’s not covered under Medicare. But there are a few tricks you can use to save money.


Check-ups, cleanings, x-rays: dental care can put a “dent” in a fixed budget even before anything goes wrong! Until the day when taking care of your teeth is covered by insurance just like the rest of your body, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. However, there are some tips and tricks that may help you lower the cost. 

Dental Visits During the Pandemic

You may well wonder how safe it is to visit a dentist during the COVID-19 crisis. As of this writing, the American Dental Association and the CDC are recommending dental teams weigh the risks of serving clients, but they are not stopping visits. Your dentist should be particularly concerned about disinfecting, distancing and wearing protection. Every office can operate a little differently, but here are some questions you can ask:

  • Will clients wait in their car or in the waiting room?
  • How often are surfaces and tools disinfected?
  • What protective gear will you wear?
  • Have appointments been spaced out? 



  • Dental schools. Students studying dentistry have to get experience somewhere, so most schools run clinics where the public can get treated for free or at a substantially reduced price. Anything from a standard filling to a root canal and crown can be done, but be aware that it will take longer than at a dentist’s office. Licensed supervisors check on each stage of the work. Worried you won’t be able to find a school? Every state has at least two, and some have over 100. Check the website of the Commission on Dental Accreditation to find one close to you
  • Clinics. Your local or state health department may get grants from the federal government to hold a clinic that charges a reduced fixed price or provides services on a sliding scale according to your income. They offer a wide range of services, from preventive care to tooth extractions.
  • Dental tourism. Naturally, you want to be careful where you’re traveling during the pandemic; staying safe is the main concern. With this in mind, consider a trip to Mexico, Costa Rica or Central America when it is safe to do so (and when Americans are welcome). They have dentists that trained in the U.S. but practice their profession in a country that is much less expensive, so the same care might be half the cost. Be sure to check their rating on the internet and find out what amenities the office has. Some border offices in Mexico specialize in older Americans, but there is a wide variation in care. Alternatively, an excellent office may be found in a town loaded with ex-pats, such as Ajijic or San Miguel de Allende. Do a search with your desired country to start comparing rates. Most offices provide a phone number and are happy to answer your questions. They are used to visitors from the U.S. and can provide hotel and transportation options for your stay.
  • Cash discount. Many offices will offer a substantial discount, such as 20%, for paying in cash.
  • Flexible spending account or health savings account. If you are employed and have an FSA, you can use the money in it to pay for dental services tax-free. Don’t forget that funds expire on an annual basis. Contributions to an HSA are tax-free going in and coming out, and if you use the Affordable Care Act for insurance, an HSA plan is likely available. Medical expenses, including dentistry, are eligible for reimbursement from the account. 
  • Dental discount plan or insurance. Dental discount plans are offered by a network of dentists who have agreed to charge less in exchange for an annual fee, usually about $75 (although family members can often be added for considerably less). After joining, you could save anywhere from 10% to 60% on services. For most people who have relatively healthy teeth and gums, a discount plan will save money over insurance. However, insurance may be your best bet if you have ongoing dental issues.

A Comparison of Dental Plans and Insurance


  Dental Discount Plan Traditional Insurance
Premiums   No Yes 
$12-$30 per month
Membership fees Yes
$75 single
$100 family
No
Copays No Depends on the plan
Deductibles No Depends on the plan
Preventive services covered
(exams, root canals)

Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers

Yes
Basic services covered
(fillings, root canals)
Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers
A percentage of the cost, depending on the plan you select
Major services covered
(crowns, bridges)
Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers
A percentage of the cost, depending on the plan you select
Waiting periods No Depends on the plan
Annual benefit limit None Yes
Pay dentist directly Yes No


If you don’t have an urgent need to visit the dentist, the best decision might be to wait and reassess in another four to six months. In the meantime, follow best practices for taking care of your teeth. Brush morning and night, holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the base of your teeth. Brush about a half a minute each on all four quadrants: lower inside, lower outside, upper inside and upper outside, paying special attention to any problem areas. Use fluoride. Follow the evening brushing with flossing. Avoid sugar and starches when you can, stay away from soda, and if you do smoke, try to quit or cut back. 

Dental care is expensive, but there are ways to cut down on the cost. Not all of these suggestions will be right for you, but you should be able to find a couple that will offer relief from a huge bill. 



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Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors




Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saving Money on Your Car



Your car is one of your biggest expenses. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to tamp down on costs.


Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” While he had a world war on his hands, our battle with COVID-19 is the crisis of our times. As many of us transition to working from home, get groceries and goods delivered and drive a whole lot less than we used to, it is a great opportunity to rethink how much we’re spending on wheels.

Have you looked at how much cash you’re dropping just to get around? The average American car owner spends approximately $9,282 per year on their car, which comes out to $773.50 monthly, according to AAA research agency. A lot of factors go into the cost. Type of vehicle, miles driven, and cost of insurance are a few. It is entirely possible to shave down that monthly bill. 




Should Older Adults Lease a Car?

You may never have considered leasing a car instead of buying one. But there are a handful of reasons that it may be the best bet, especially as we age. CarProShow cohost Jerry Reynolds shares his advice.

  • Monthly payments are lower than buying the same car.
  • There is no or little money down, so you keep a chunk of change.
  • A lease is easier to get out of in the event you need a mobility van or want to switch cars.
  • A leased vehicle comes with few extra expenses because it will be under warranty, and some companies cover the cost of maintenance.
  • A leased car will likely be a newer model and come with safety features such as emergency stopping and blind-spot warnings. 
  • It’s easier for heirs to terminate a lease contract than to sell your car.


Car Payment


If you didn’t pay cash for your car, then you’ve got a monthly payment. “Finance costs accounted for more than 40% of the total increase in average vehicle ownership costs,” in the AAA study, reported John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering & Repair. You could call your lender and refinance your car loan. If you can’t get a lower rate, extending the term of your lease will cut what you owe each month, although you’ll be paying more interest overall. Leasing a car that is wreaking havoc on your bank account? You could go to a site such as Swapalease or Leasetrader to find someone to take over your contract. 

Or, you could buy a car that costs a lot less. Pickups and SUVs are all the rage, but buying one is like purchasing a small house — only your car depreciates, and quickly. Most vehicles lose 30% of their value in the first year. You can avoid that loss by buying a vehicle that’s a couple of years old. Do you really need that pickup? They’re the most expensive vehicle to own, at approximately $10,839 per year. Switch to a small sedan for $7,114 on average per year. Oh, but you live in snow country and you have to have a 4WD? Think again. According to Consumer Reports,  using snow tires in winter beat out AWD cars that are more expensive to buy and service.

Car Insurance


Owning a car that is cheap to insure — i.e. one that is safe (think Honda CRV, Toyota Corolla and the like) — is a great way to keep insurance costs down. You can also pull your driving record by ordering a copy from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Check if there are any violation points or outstanding tickets. When your record is spotless, see if your insurance company will lower your rate. 

Most people like to keep the same insurance company for all their needs, forever. That’s a mistake. Some insurance companies offer great rates to 30-year-olds, but are not such a good deal for older folks. And all companies tend to raise rates over time because they know we all have a lazy gene and we don’t want to check around. Read Mr. Money Mustache’s blog on this topic. Call around every year (your birthday is a good time) to check rates with several different companies, and check for discounts like good driver, home and car bundling, loyalty and special savings by occupation if you are a public servant or engineer. 

If you drive an older model vehicle, you can often cut costs in half by dropping collision and comprehensive coverage that pay for damage to your vehicle if you cause an accident. Could you replace your car if it was totaled? Are you willing to bet on the odds that you won’t need to replace it? You can also increase your deductible, which is what you pay out of pocket. Research finds that, on average, increasing the deductible from $500 to $1,000 saves $200 per year. 

You’re probably driving less nowadays, and that can lower your insurance premium. Consider a pay-per-mile program offered by Metromile, Allstate, Esurance, Nationwide and Mile Auto. You’ll plug a measuring device into your car’s diagnostic port and pay by the mile. 

If your car doesn’t have an anti-theft device, check how much it costs to install one and find out how it would affect your rate. OnStar or LoJack may make sense, or you may get the same discount for etching your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) onto the windshield. Finally, most states require insurers to lower rates for older drivers. Sometimes, that requires taking a driving skills class, offered online through AAA and AARP. Classes cost about $25; in some cases, what you save will be less, so know the math before you enroll. 

Maintenance and Repairs


Don’t scrimp on maintenance, but don’t overpay. Follow the owner’s manual for scheduled maintenance. Most cars have reminders that light up for oil changes, and your mechanic should alert you when other servicing is due, but you’ll want to keep records and know when major servicing is due. 

Avoid the dealer for maintenance and repairs. Locate a good mechanic you can trust (word-of-mouth or Nextdoor nextdoor.com are good places to start). There may be some advantages to taking your car to the dealership, but low pricing is not one of them. And before any repairs, check a site such as CarMD  to estimate the cost. That way, you can discuss the estimate with your mechanic knowledgeably. 

Gas


According to experts, you don’t need to buy premium unless it’s required for your car (find the information in your owner’s manual). A car with great fuel economy is naturally going to cost less. You can use a free app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel near you, but it’s not worth driving a few miles out of your way for pennies on the gallon. Your driving habits will have a much bigger impact: the worst thing you can do is accelerate rapidly. Driving aggressively increases fuel consumption by 30%. 

Your tire shop should inflate your wheels for free any time. Most tires come with sensors that will tell you when one is low, or you can do a visual check. Keeping tires properly inflated helps with both fuel economy and even tire wear. Tires should also be rotated about every 5,000 miles (a free service at most places where you buy tires), or whenever your oil is changed.

You may not need, or want, to take all of the steps above to cut down on your expenses. But most people find that by changing a few things — such as shopping for insurance — they can substantially reduce their monthly auto bill. And that can put enough wiggle room in your budget for a better night’s sleep, or even a vacation down the road. 




Click below for the other articles in the September 2020 Senior Spirit


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Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Thursday, September 24, 2020

Is It Time to Downsize?



We’re all stuck at home. Take advantage of it by getting that dreaded task, downsizing, done and over with. We’ll show you how.


You’ve probably been spending a lot of time at home lately. With all of your stuff — where did it all come from?! Most of us accumulate things as time goes by, and after years, or even decades, of living in the same house, it adds up. Kitchen drawers are stuffed full, closets are crammed, and the basement … we don’t even want to think about the boxes upon boxes stored there.

Perhaps you’re considering a move into a smaller space, whether to cut costs or reduce how many square feet you have to take care of. Maybe you’re at the stage where you realize that any possessions you leave behind will have to be dealt with by a child or someone you love. Or it could be that you are just feeling burdened by all of the physical objects taking up space.


Get Supplies Ready


Professional organizer Francine Yafta recommends having supplies at the ready before dig-ging into a project. Here’s her list of what to have on hand:

  • Bags/boxes: Different sizes/colors to distinguish between categories (such as what to keep, sell, recycle or donate)
  • Newspaper/plain packing paper/bubble wrap: To pack fragile items to keep, ship, sell, donate
  • Shipping tape: To seal boxes
  • Notebook/paper/pen/pencil: To take notes
  • Sharpies/markers/masking tape/labels: To label boxes/bags
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape: In the event design/placement ideas come while sorting through items
Note: For items that are not to be tossed or recycled, it’s easier to retrieve small items placed in small bags (i.e., grocery shopping bags and/or Ziploc-type bags) than at the bottom of a huge trash bag.

Help Is Here


We’ve collected some resources to assist you with various phases of the decluttering process.

Appraisers National Association. Find a certified, accredited appraiser in your area and learn what questions to ask when hiring an appraiser. 

American Society of Appraisers. Members perform appraisals prior to sales, acquisition, taxes and estate planning. Search for an appraiser by state, zip code or specialty.

American Society of Liquidators. Find an estate liquidator near you, and get tips and resources about the liquidation process.

National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals. Certified professionals who are experts at effectively organizing and sorting through anything from a closet to a house. 

National Association of Senior Move Managers. Helps older adults and their families through the downsizing and relocation process, including a list of trained senior move managers in their state. 

National Estate Sales Association. Offers multiple guides to improve consumers’ awareness around estate sales and selling personal property. 

Why Declutter?


Most of us live with some level of clutter without realizing that it can make us less productive, even triggering coping and avoidance strategies that can send us to the TV with a bowl of ice cream. In fact, research verifies that our physical environment has a big impact on our cognition, emotions and even our relationships with other people. 

There’s no shortage of benefits from cutting back on our possessions. It’s actually doing it that’s hard. The good news is that there are tactics to make it more bearable. Experts say that the first step is to give yourself plenty of time to get the job done. Weeks or even months may be needed to go through a lifetime of accumulations. 

How To Go About It


Start with the smallest spaces. You’ll be able to clean out a closet or your laundry room in one go, and the feeling of getting a space done will encourage you to keep with the task. Save the biggest areas for last. “Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather un-comfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime, it can be too humid.”

Another tactic is to organize backwards, according to Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That. While a common suggestion is to separate out the things you don’t want, she thinks it’s easier to take everything out of a space and only put back the keepers. Whatever you do, make “yes” or “no” piles only, no “maybes.” If you start waffling, then all you’ve really done is move your stuff from one side of the room to another. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you might need something in the future that you haven’t needed in the past. “If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

Difficulty of Letting Go


It’s not going to be easy to get rid of things. “It brings up all kinds of emotional issues,” said Su-san Levin, who has downsized more than once, and has been a consultant with Orchestrated Moves, a company that helps older adults and others with relocation and downsizing. “It’s not just moving things but the emotional letting go.” There may be times you need to cry or reminisce as you work your way through. That’s okay. You’ll move on. “You’re empowering yourself because you’re enabling yourself to make the decision about things,” said Gary W. Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and past president of the American Society for Geriatric Psychiatry. “It frees us up when we discard things.”

Some collections may be particularly hard to let go of, but they’re just going to sit in a box. Those refrigerator magnets from all your trips, your child’s sweet drawings from long ago, the collection of teddy bears. Pick a couple of your favorites to keep and take a photograph of the rest, then put it where you’ll see it. If you have old-school photo negatives from when you were a kid, try hiring an outfit like Fotobridge. They can turn negatives, slides, or anything else that is scannable into a digital format that can be saved to your computer. 

What To Do With Unwanted Items


To start with, find out if there are items that family members or friends would like. Don’t be offended if there is very little they want to keep; that is often the case. Things that don’t have much value can be donated. Several national organizations offer to pick up donations, but be sure to call ahead to schedule this service. Make sure they operate in your area, and expect a wait. They are:

  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
  • The Salvation Army

Consignment is a good idea for specialty furniture or high-quality items. You can also sell on Facebook Shops https://www.facebook.com/business/news/announcing-facebook-shops, eBay https://pages.ebay.com/seller-center/index.html or a number of other websites. Be aware that you’ll need to take photos of each item and fill in details. It may not be worth it to you. You can have a yard sale, but that is difficult during the pandemic. A good backup plan is to donate items to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or ARC thrift store. Junk removal on a large scale can be accomplished by calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

If your house is full of desirable objects that have good value, you can contact estate sale agents. Be prepared to send them photos of some of your choicest items. Very high-end furniture, paintings and other pieces may be best auctioned off by Sotheby’s or another company that deals in the rarest and best. If you have even one piece in this category, it is an option worth checking out. 

While the process won’t be easy, if you stick with it, the day will arrive when you can declare victory. You’ll look around and see only useful, well-loved objects. You’ll open drawers and be able to tell what they contain without rummaging through. Perhaps you should do a little some-thing to celebrate with the money you made from the things you got rid of. After all, you’ve earned it.


Click below for the other articles in the September 2020 Senior Spirit


Sources:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors