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Thursday, May 19, 2022

The “Affinity Communities” Trend is Set to Explode for Over-60s



Tapping into a common human desire to form friendships with people having similar interests, outlooks, or backgrounds, affinity senior communities attract like-minded older adults from across the country.  


It is not just golf courses that unite older adults within a housing community these days. The trend is taking off for dog lovers, LGBTQ people, travel buffs, and many more subsets. Some have been in operation for decades, but many are new to the concept and expanding the definition of what an “affinity community” can be. 

Many existing communities exemplify the trend, although they may not feature a formalized care component. Older Asian Americans can take advantage of the assisted living community at Aegis Gardens in Fremont, CA. Retired musicians, actors, writers, and artists (or those who wish they had been) can find an apartment at the Burbank Senior Arts Colony in Los Angeles. Summertown, TN offers cabins for nature enthusiasts at Rocinante. Retired letter carriers even have their own gathering place at Nalcrest in Central Florida. 

Finding Your Own Niche Community


You may be wondering how to go about finding your own affinity community. One way is to simply do an online search. There is a senior living provider that has trademarked “Affinity,” so be sure to double-check search results. 

Another avenue is the Private Communities Registry (PCR) website. You can input a state or country and filter amenities to find results. Looking for a community with a dog park in Georgia? Housing with fishing in Montana? PCR can match you up. Be aware that these are master-planned communities and may include all ages or lack assisted living facilities, etc. Still, this is a great place to start looking for an inclusive new home.


University Communities

Intellectual stimulation and cultural opportunities are available at university-based retirement communities (UBRCs). These are located on or near college campuses, allowing residents to audit courses or participate in research. There are more than 50, and can be found at universities like Penn State, Dartmouth, Stanford, Cornell, and Notre Dame. Most also offer skilled nursing care.

One UBRC is Kendal at Ithaca, near Ithaca College and Cornell University in upstate New York. Residents interact with college students on a variety of projects. When the three dining areas needed a redesign, students executing the project built full-size models and made videos so residents could provide input. Kendal at Ithaca is also a study center for aging and memory. 

"Cornell has realized that we're a living laboratory for studies in aging, so our residents get interviewed, and we're constantly fielding proposals from graduate students for research projects," says Betsy Schermerhorn, Director of Marketing and Admissions for Kendal at Ithaca.

"It's good for us because it helps residents keep up-to-date with the university," says resident and former Cornell administrator and professor Cindy Noble, "and it's good for Cornell because it keeps them in contact with former faculty and alums, many of whom are loyal donors.”
You don’t have to be affiliated with Ithaca or Cornell (or any college or university) to join Kendal at Ithaca, however. Many are attracted by the winding trails, creative arts studio, library, and dog play area. The winemaking group sets up tastings in Kendal’s wine cellar, and there’s a local theater.

Endless Options

About 200 to 300 residents are needed for a thriving retirement community. That’s a fairly low bar for entry, especially since these communities generally allow anyone access. That makes for more diverse options. Yes, there really is a community specifically for Jimmy Buffett enthusiasts at the Latitude Margaritaville in Hilton Head, FL. Go to Rainbow’s End in Livingston, TX to gather with other RV owners and find assisted living options as well as respite care. 

People born in another country may find comfort in one of the many communities geared toward specific ethnicities. Native American, Hispanic, and Greek American senior communities are some of the most popular around Chicago, while some in California cater to Japanese Americans and Chinese Americans. Residents can speak their native language, celebrate native holidays as well as those of their adopted country, and eat familiar foods together.

Affinity communities may be particularly attractive for groups that may otherwise feel marginalized. After moving to the LGBTQ community Rainbow Vision in Santa Fe, NM, resident Patrick Russell, a retired university administrator, finally felt understood and at home. 

"I'd never been at a place where I was in the majority," says Russell of Rainbow Vision. "It's become so matter-of-fact here that I forget that being a gay person is the least bit unusual.” There is a cabaret and lounge on the property that is open to the public, offering entertainment to go with the award-winning restaurant and fitness center. 

Various affinity community residents report that these communities seem to function well because friendships are more easily formed among people who share a mindset, vision, or even a hobby. As more and more baby boomers retire, this living trend will doubtless expand.





Monday, May 16, 2022

A Tech Concierge May Increase Your Business Catering to Over-60s



If you haven’t created a tech concierge position to help clients set up and maintain software and hardware, you may be missing out on creating brand loyalty and increased ROI.  


Seniors are increasingly reliant on technology to stay in touch with family and friends, keep up with finances, monitor their health, and access a host of everyday activities. A recent AARP survey found that most older adults have a more positive feeling about using technology compared to how they felt before the pandemic. However, it is still easy to get hung up when trying to video chat or install a new skill on Alexa, for example. 

The role of tech concierge has come to the forefront for senior living facilities in particular, although it could apply to many businesses serving older adults. Often, these are people who know the organization’s platforms and the devices it uses, and they are trained to help residents and staff utilize the technology.

Outsourcing a Tech Concierge


It is not always easy to fill positions in today’s hiring climate. You may choose to outsource a tech concierge. Sentrics can provide phone support or in-house services. Their phone line is available 24/7, and you will never get a recording or be rerouted. Another such service is Tech Concierge. Both of these companies will help your company’s staff, clients, or both.

“I would encourage everyone to jump in so that you can begin experimenting with this role and seeing how to position it for the future,” says Tammy Farris, Director of Strategic Innovation at Watermark senior living in Tucson. “Because I think it is going to change from what we even know of it today.”

Technology Use Is Growing Among Seniors

Around three years ago, Watermark began offering classes at its senior living facilities to teach residents how to use email, share photos, make video calls, and perform other tasks. This was helpful, but many residents needed more assistance with the tools or wanted to learn how to do other things. In a single community, staff was spending about 60 hours per week helping with tech questions. 

“We were surprised at the volume of requests, and so that’s when we started to talk about this concept of having a tech concierge,” says Farris. United Methodist Communities was on a similar path. They had a technician who traveled between their four retirement communities, beginning about four years ago. Although many of their clients were tech-averse, technology was playing an increasingly important role in their daily lives and providing a higher quality experience. 

“So we knew we had to meet that need, because it was certainly under met,” says Travis Gleinig, Director of IT at United Methodist Communities.

What a Tech Concierge Does

This may be a dedicated position, or it could fall to another staff member as part of their duties. Whichever the case, this person should be trained in how to work with older adults and have expansive knowledge of technology installation and use. On one day, they may be asked to install a voice assistant and set up capabilities, and on another, find and install a magnifier app on a smartphone.

“We’re definitely pulling out job descriptions and postings for multiple positions and emphasizing the ability to embrace technology,” says Farris. “You have to have patience…compassion, and you have to be a good teacher.”

Billing For a Tech Concierge

Many communities are beginning to consider rolling the cost of the position into their monthly charges. After all, it can be a selling point to let families know that a tech concierge is included in the fee.

“If you include from the get-go that technology interaction — ‘You have this, and here’s how you use it, and I’ll come by your apartment when you move in and I’ll get you onboarded’ — that’s a totally different experience,” says Gleinig. “And that’s way more valuable than the community down the road that says, ‘Here, we have XYZ, and good luck.’”

Others are choosing to bill for the time separately, usually in 15 or 30-minute increments. For example, Watermark charges $15 for 15 minutes. “I think it’s definitely going to end up in the direction where a community has a tech concierge as part of the cost of living here,” says Gleinig.

No matter how the position is implemented, it can only help residents and their families feel more confident and cared for. Even as new residents become more tech-savvy over the coming years, technology itself will become increasingly complicated. Having a tech concierge may be the difference between choosing one residence over another.




Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Seniors Who Became Successful



Plenty of older adults have achieved acclaim after 60. It’s never too late to pursue a passion or try something new.  


It’s easy to occasionally feel like you’re just too old to (fill in the blank). Maybe it involves learning a new skill or doing something that you haven’t done for decades. We can psyche ourselves out as we grow older and fail to even try. Don’t let that happen to you.

There are plenty of stories of people who achieved beyond anyone’s expectations when they were past their 60th birthday. Reading about their success can encourage each of us to expand who we are and what we do, no matter our age. We can still fulfill some of those childhood goals or get inspired to try our hand at something we have never previously considered. Let the following stories inspire you!

  • Harry Bernstein was enduring profound loneliness after the death of his wife of 67 years when he began writing his first book. Drawn from his childhood experiences growing up with an alcoholic father and mother who struggled to feed their six offspring, the book also covers the love story of his Jewish sister and her Christian boyfriend. The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers was published when Bernstein turned 96. He went on to write three more books, all centering on his life. 
  • George W. Bush, former U.S. president, was 64 when he picked up a paintbrush and embarked on a totally new hobby in 2013. He’s now regarded as an accomplished oil painter and has toured with his portraits of American servicemen and women, as well as paintings of American immigrants. Painting offered the former president a new challenge completely different from the high stakes political decisions he made as head of a world power. Twenty-four of his portraits of world leaders hang in his presidential library located in Dallas.
  • Kenichi Horie was the first person ever to sail solo and non-stop across the Pacific. He completed the voyage from Osaka, Japan to San Francisco in 1962 at the age of 23. Now, he’s 83 and attempting to reverse that voyage, sailing solo from San Francisco back to his native country. At five feet tall, Horie says that he never needs to get in shape for an adventure. “I’m always fine, always in shape … No overeating, no over-drinking.” 
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her 60s when she began writing the story of growing up while America was still being settled by pioneers. It was a gritty memoir of near starvation and hardship laced with the love of her family, but publishers initially rejected it. Some told her it would be a great children’s series if she could tone down the more adult themes. Ingalls Wilder took that advice and expanded her book into one of the most beloved series of all time. More than 60 million volumes of Little House on the Prairie have sold since the author’s daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, encouraged her mother to jot down her memories. That first book that Ingalls Wilder wrote was later published with the title Prairie Girl, in case you’d like to read the version written for adults. 
  • Anna Maria Robertson “Grandma” Moses had wanted to be an artist since she was a little girl, but a hectic life keeping a house of 10 children and maintaining a farm left her no time to pursue her passion. Finally, at age 78, she began painting in earnest and became one of the most preeminent folk artists of all time. Grandma Moses won a slew of awards, had her photo on the cover of magazines, and became a celebrity. In 2006, 45 years after her death at age 101, one of her pieces sold at auction for more than a million dollars. 
  • Mariko Yugeta of Japan is a modern-day example of someone holding onto a dream. A runner in her 20s, she put the sport on hold to raise her four children. It wasn’t until she was in her 50s that she could get more serious about her sport. In 2019, she became the first woman in the world to run a marathon in less than three hours. No one else has since been able to join her in that heady accomplishment. In fact, that record beat Yugeta’s own time of 3:09.21 when she ran her first marathon at age 24. “I’ll keep running for as long as I can,” she says. “There are official records for the over-70 age group, and I’d love to have a go at breaking those.”



Friday, May 6, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!


Image Source: Wikipedia

May 8 - Bill Cowher, linebacker, football coach, sports analyst

Bill Cowher was a team captain, linebacker, and MVP in his senior year playing football for NC State University. However, he had an unremarkable career in the NFL, a circumstance he attributes to helping him become an extraordinary coach. He primarily played special teams during his time on the field and worked hard for his spot on the roster. Cowher thinks such players make better coaches than the guys who headlined and had a lot of success. 

Talk about success…Cowher joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as head coach in 1992 and retired at the end of the 2006 season. In that time, the team won eight division championships, two AFC Championship Games, and a Super Bowl. This amazing record earned Cowher a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

Cowher has seen his share of tragedy; his first wife, Kaye, died from skin cancer in 2010. The couple’s three daughters went on to attend college, and two married pro athletes. In 2014, Cowher married Veronica Stigeler. Four years later, the couple moved to New York. 

Cowher has said that life is not about what you accomplish, but rather the lives you touch along the way. He can be proud that nine of his assistant coaches went on to become head coaches in either the NFL or NCAA, and one of his players, Mike Vrabel, is now the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

Cowher continues to work as a sports analyst on The NFL Today.

 




Image Source: Wikipedia

May 16 - Joan Benoit Samuelson, long-distance runner

One of America’s greatest distance runners, Joan Benoit Samuelson has had a long career defined by records, any one of which serve to preserve her place in history. She was the first Olympic Games women’s marathon champion, triumphing at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. She has put down times that have stayed at the top of the record books for decades, winning the Chicago Marathon women’s division in 1985 with a time that held the record for 32 years. Her run in the 1979 Boston Marathon was the fastest time achieved by an American woman for the following 28 years. 

Oh, and about those Olympic trials for the 1984 Games? Samuelson hurt her knee quite severely, and it looked like she was out. She had to undergo arthroscopic surgery just 17 days before the trials were scheduled. It would be impossible to recover from that and run well for two and a half hours, wouldn’t anyone assume? But Samuelson managed to beat her closest rival by 30 seconds to secure her place at the Games, where a gold medal was soon hanging from her neck.

Perhaps what earns Samuelson a mention in a blog dedicated to seniors is her remarkable performance in the 2019 Boston Marathon. Forty years after her first victory there, with her son and daughter running with her, she achieved her goal of running a time within 40 minutes of her winning time in 1989. In fact, she came within 30 minutes of her record time! 

Samuelson currently lives in her home state of Maine, where she coaches women’s cross country and long-distance runners. The high school athletic field is named the Joan Benoit Samuelson Track and Field. She also gives motivational speeches and is a sports commentator. 






Image Source: Wikipedia

May 22 - Lisa Murkowski, US Senator from Alaska

Lisa Murkowski has held a senate seat for her home state of Alaska since 2002, making her the senior senator. A Republican, she is considered a moderate and voted with Democrats to convict the former president of incitement of insurrection in his second impeachment trial. The Alaska Republican Party censured her for her vote.

Murkowski’s father, Frank, is a former US Senator and governor of Alaska. He appointed Lisa to the Senate in 2002 when he resigned his seat to become governor of the state. While the move raised many eyebrows, his daughter ran for and won a complete term in 2004, proving she was capable on her own merits. And in 2010, Murkowski became only the second US senator to win by write-in, defeating both the Democrat and a Tea Party candidate.

She has become consequential on the political scene, serving as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for six years and as vice-chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee since 2021. She worked as an attorney before starting her career in government.





Source:

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Protect Yourself During Storm Season



Hurricane, tornado, and flood seasons are here — maybe they never went away. Prepare now so you’ll know what to do in case the worst happens.  


The weather is changing, and not for the better. More tornadoes, longer droughts, and worse floods are here to stay. Knowing how to prepare for them can give you some peace of mind.

Documents

Gather important papers now, copy them, and put them in a portable file or locked box so that you will be able to grab it and go in the event of an approaching storm. A backup set of photographed copies should be in the cloud or another location with a remote backup service. Some things you might want to include:
  • Medicare and other health insurance cards, extra prescription medication, and doctors’ phone numbers.
  • Your birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage certificate, driver's license, and passport. Also, any diplomas or military papers. Take photos of the front and back of each credit card. You may also want to compile an emergency contact list with phone numbers of friends and professionals. In the event that your cell phone dies and cannot be recharged, you could still contact them from another phone.
  • You may also want tax records, including receipts for business expenses (although ideally these are already photocopied and accessible on your phone).
  • Your insurance policy number and the phone number to make a claim. Also, be proactive and take a video of your home. Narrate as you inventory all your possessions as well as where you bought them and how much you paid. Choose from a list of mostly free online software to create this home inventory.

Avoiding Flash Floods

Flash floods can happen in creeks, rivers, dry washes, arroyos, or ravines. They usually occur during periods of intense rain, which can happen on a day when the morning had nothing but blue sky. Be aware of whether rain is expected. Even if it is only raining in the high country above you, remember that water travels downhill. In the western United States, thunderstorms often occur in the afternoon. Plan hikes in the morning if you will be walking through potential flood zones.

Six inches of water can knock you off your feet. If you are in a car, do not try to travel through water. It can be much deeper than you think due to road damage below. Stay put or turn around. Pay attention to National Weather Service actions:

  • Hazardous Weather Outlooks are issued daily, discussing flash flood potential.
  • A Flash Flood Watch is issued when conditions are more conducive to flooding than a normal day.
  • A Flash Flood Warning is issued when flooding is likely or is already occurring.


Natural Peril Insurance

Homeowner and rental policies seldom cover floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other “natural perils,” as they’re called on insurance policies. The first step is to read your policy and know what it covers. Then, you need to assess the risk for natural perils where you live, keeping in mind that risk is moving up in many areas, as flooding, tornadoes, and heavy storms are occurring where they did not used to occur as frequently. 

Check out the National Flood Insurance Program map for your area to determine risk. Flood insurance is handled through the federal government, and the site has thorough guidelines and instructions. 

Finally, discuss other potential additional coverage with your insurance agent. Read the Money Geek article for an overall review of hazard, flood, and earthquake insurance.

Disaster Kit

Documents are not the only thing you will want readily available. Prepare a disaster kit https://www.ready.gov/kit to include the following items:
  • A gallon per person of purified water, which should last several days.
  • Non-perishable food, such as canned soup or chili, and a can opener.
  • Flashlight with extra batteries.
  • First-Aid kit.
  • Whistle in case you need to signal for help.
  • A mask to protect from dust or other particles, such as an N95. 
  • Moist towelettes, plastic bags, and ties for personal hygiene.
  • Cell phone charger and backup power.
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to make your own shelter.
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities — water, gas, and electric (unless needed to run a sump pump).
  • Local map.

Before a Storm Hits

If a hurricane or other storm is heading your way, follow these tips from the National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office: 
  • Tune in to the National Weather Service for regular updates. 
  • Make sure vehicles are filled with gas. 
  • Inspect and secure mobile home tie-downs. 
  • Bring lawn furniture, trash cans, tools, and any other loose items inside. 
  • Cover all window and door openings with shutters, plywood, or other shielding material. 
  • Get some extra cash since ATMs will not work if flooded.

During a Severe Storm Warning

If you are in a warning area, here is what you need to do:
  • Closely monitor the radio for official bulletins.
  • Follow instructions provided by local officials. If you are told to evacuate, do it.
  • If you have to evacuate, try to leave during the day. Stay with friends or relatives at a low-rise inland hotel or motel, or in a designated public shelter as a last resort.
  • If you live in a mobile home, leave. The same goes for homes near rivers, flood plains, coastal land, and on offshore islands.
  • Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations. If you live in a high-rise, leave.
  • Notify neighbors and family members regarding your plans.
  • Put food and water out for a pet if for some reason you are unable to bring it with you. Be advised that most public emergency shelters and many hotels/motels do not allow pets.
  • In case of flooding, know beforehand where you can go to reach higher ground and even where you might want to park your second car, if applicable (such as the middle level of a parking structure).

Sheltering In Place

If you are staying in your home, either because you have not yet been ordered to evacuate or you have decided not to evacuate, here is what you should do:

  • Turn your refrigerator to its coldest setting, and do not open it unless absolutely necessary.
  • Turn off utilities if authorities ask you to.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Fill bathtubs and large containers with water to have access to hygiene in case the water shuts off.
  • If winds become strong, everyone should go to the basement unless flooding is likely, Otherwise, take shelter in an inner room on the first floor, if possible, such as a bathroom or closet with no windows since flying glass is a major hazard. Keep a thick blanket, mattress, or any other protective material handy to pull over you and lie down.

After the Storm

What you will do next will depend on the degree of damage or any lasting flooding, but here is a good start:
  • Check on your neighbors. If you are able to do so, check in with older adults and those with disabilities first to ensure they are alright. 
  • Avoid standing water. Hazards may lie below the surface, or it could be contaminated or electrified.
  • Report downed power lines.
  • Continue to monitor media for weather and aftermath information.
  • Stay away from damaged areas and let professionals make repairs.
  • Assess any damage to your home.
  • If your home is damaged, contact your insurer regarding coverage.





Thursday, April 21, 2022

10 Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund



Uncle Sam is sending you money! Don’t blow it; there are plenty of smart places to stash, or even spend, your cash.  


It is tax refund season for many Americans, including seniors. Most people (74% of filers in 2020) will get money back after submitting their tax return. The average tax refund was more than $2,800 in 2021, which is a sizable chunk of change. It is worth looking at smart ways to allocate your potential windfall rather than frittering it away or blowing it all on an impulse purchase.

Why the Best Refund is No Refund

You read that right: the best tax refund is no refund at all! Why? It means that you actually retained the income you earned. You see, when you get a tax refund, it simply means that you had automatically given more in taxes than the government needed. A better strategy is to more precisely determine what you will owe and use that “extra” money at the beginning of the year instead of at the end. Seniors, this includes money that your brokerage is withholding from IRA distributions. For more details, go here.

Making a smart money move now can pay off in the future. Here are 10 wise ways to use your refund:

  1. Pay off credit card debt. The interest on credit card debt is rising at the steepest rate in decades, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And with interest rates set to go up, the trend will only continue. “Using your tax refund to pay down your credit card debt is an excellent choice, since credit card rates are very high and likely headed higher,” says Ted Rossman, CreditCard.com analyst. The average interest rate is more than 16%, and most people carry a balance of more than $5,000. Put your tax refunds from this year and next toward that amount and you will be free of credit card debt by about this time next year. 
  2. Start or add to your emergency fund. Six in 10 Americans have less than $1,000 tucked away for emergencies, according to a recent Bankrate survey. A surprise car repair or health bill can be devastating when there is no money to pay for it. Often, people put the bill on their credit card and then find themselves unable to get out from under the multiplying debt. Put your refund in a separate savings or money market account that is earmarked for emergencies only.
  3. Add to retirement savings. If you work, you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). The limits are $6,000 per person in 2022, or $7,000 if you are 50 or older. Take advantage of a Roth IRA and make taxable contributions; the principal and earnings can come out tax-free. For a tax deduction this year, contribute to a traditional IRA. There are phase-out ranges for high earners. For 2022, 401(k) contribution limits have risen to $20,500. If that seems like too much, remember that the average retirement age is 63, and more and more Americans are living to 100. 
  4. Save for health care. If you are covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP), you may be eligible to contribute to a health savings account (HSA). These gems are tax-free when the money goes in, tax-free while it compounds, and tax-free when you take the money out for qualified health expenses – a generous category that even includes long-term care. Contribution limits are $3,650 for an individual and $7,300 per family for 2022. If you are 55 or over, you can tack on an additional $1,000. Look for a custodian that offers investment opportunities, rather than just interest on savings, for considerably greater growth over time. Another trick is to pay out of pocket for current health expenses while saving receipts. You can redeem them any time, even decades in the future, while letting your HSA balance grow tax-free during those years.
  5. Invest in the stock market. The historical return on money in the stock market beats bonds, savings accounts, and certificates of deposit. If you will not need the money in the near term, place it in the market where it has the potential for healthy returns. One choice to consider is a broad-market exchange traded fund, or ETF, to diversify your holdings.
  6. Start a business. Using your refund to seed a business idea can be a smart move. Sell goods on eBay or offer your writing talent on Fivr. Whatever your talent, there is a place to sell it on the internet. If you would rather keep it local, savvy cooks can create sauces or baked goods for the local farmer’s market. Your money can go toward creating inventory, designing a website, or even toward learning a new talent.
  7. Bolster your insurance policies. Get an umbrella insurance policy in case someone is hurt while on your property or by your car. The cost is about $200 to $400 for a year of coverage with a $1 million payout. As climate change impacts the number and severity of hurricanes and storms, you may want to consider adding to your home insurance. If your sewer backs up, you will be glad you paid $130 for a $15,000 policy, which is not part of standard home coverage. A 6.5 kw portable home generator runs about $900. 
  8. Help your grandchildren save. One way to help the grandkids is by funding a 529 college plan, but it has its pluses and minuses. Another idea is to fund a Roth account for kids who earn money during the year. These custodial accounts can be set up for children of any age as long as they have earned income for work they completed or from a business they own. This includes money earned from babysitting, yard work, and so on. Also, it is not against the rules for a grandchild to earn the income, keep it, and have grandparents fund a Roth for them in that amount. 
  9. Buy time with a financial planner and/or estate planner. Having a solid financial plan can pay off in peace of mind and solid returns over the span of your retirement. Some advisors charge 1% of assets under management, but others go by a flat fee. If you are unsure of who to use, check out this article on how to pick a financial planner. While you’re at it, make sure you have an estate plan in place. An attorney who specializes in estate planning can ensure that your money and possessions will go to the people and organizations you choose and that your estate will not be tied up in legal knots after you pass. 
  10. Donate wisely. If you are not quite financially comfortable enough to give charitably, be strategic. You can “bundle” your charitable giving by donating a few years’ worth all at once to qualify for gift itemization on your tax return. Find tips on charitable giving and taxes here.  One vehicle to consider is a donor-advised fund. You can set aside money for donations and get a tax deduction without having to decide right away which organizations will benefit. Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) can allow people aged 70.5 and older to donate up to $100,000 directly from a taxable IRA. These donations count toward the required minimum distribution (RMD) for that year. 




Sources:



Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors



Monday, April 18, 2022

Hiking Near and Far Over 60



Exploring the great outdoors on foot is an activity that can be enjoyed by practically all older adults, anywhere you live!  


There is a major movement to get outside now that the worst of the pandemic is over (fingers crossed!). Americans missed spending time in the great outdoors, and for good reason. The American Psychological Association reports that “from a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.” That’s an impressive list! 

Hiking, which is nothing more than walking in a natural area, is one of the simplest activities for seniors to take up. The US has more than 10,366 state parks and 423 national park sites to explore, not counting community parks and trails. You can hike alone or in a group. It does not cost a thing to get started if you have comfortable shoes on your feet and clothing appropriate for the weather. 

Hiking on a Shoestring Budget

You may find yourself yearning for hiking gear that you just cannot afford. Never fear, we have some tips and tricks for you. If you are unable to borrow or rent (snowshoes, for example), there are plenty more avenues to try:
  • Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers are three major thrift stores to try. You can also check out your local consignment stores, especially if you live in an “outdoorsy” area.
  • Craigslist will expand your local search, and it is free to use. 
  • GearTrade has exclusively used outdoor gear, including clothing.
  • eBay features new and used items from a worldwide market. Find your best deals when items are in an auction so you can bid on them.
  • Steep and Cheap is the sale arm of the outdoor giant Backcountry.com. Peruse nothing but new gear at some great discount prices.


All About Ticks

There is perhaps nothing more unpleasant than returning from a hike to find a tick crawling across your arm or up your neck! Whenever you hiking on a brushy trail, through tall grass, or on a trail where branches are above or next to you, ticks have an opportunity to catch a ride. Some carry Lyme disease, which makes it even more important to guard against these pests. 

Wear long sleeves, long pants, and high socks in areas where ticks are present. You should also apply insect repellent to any exposed areas (it does not hurt to spray a little on socks or clothing for good measure). When you return home, shower or bathe within two hours and do a quick check for ticks. They are quite small, so if you see the little black or brown specks, the CDC recommends using “clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible” and to “pull upward with steady, even pressure.” Afterward, wash the area thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or soap. Don’t forget to wash your hair for good measure. 

For more tips on keeping ticks away, visit here.

If you have never enjoyed hiking before, or at least not recently, you may have questions. What should I wear? How can I tell how difficult a trail is? What trails are near to me? We are here to answer those questions and many more! 

Getting Started

Seniors, especially those with health conditions, should consult their doctor before beginning any exercise program. Remember that the point of hiking is to enjoy the scenery and fresh air while getting exercise. You will gradually increase your speed naturally as you become more fit.

You do not need a bunch of fancy-schmancy gear to head down your first trail. A pair of tennis shoes is just fine, along with clothing appropriate for the season, sunscreen, possibly insect repellant, and a water bottle. Take a photo of the map at the trailhead for reference, and you can be on your way! Go as far as you are comfortable, and remember that you will have to turn around and come back just as far. 

If you want to learn a lot about gear (and a whole lot more!) in a single place, head over to your local REI Co-op store, or poke around REI’s online store. A part of the outdoor scene since 1938, their motto is, “A life outdoors is a life well-lived.” They know clothing, gear, how to get where you want to go, and what to do once you are there.

If you need advice on what to get, choose “expert advice” at the bottom of the REI home page. They also offer classes, guided local hikes, and exciting adventures if you are so inclined. What could be better? Become a member for $20 and get 10% back annually on all regular price items you have bought to spend at your favorite store: REI!

Clothing

Once you have gotten a few hikes under your belt, you may be ready to start adding some gear to take longer hikes, to have more comfortable options, and so on. Start by considering some clothing upgrades, beginning with your feet. You can shell out big bucks for hiking shoes, and if you are planning to spend in just one area, taking care of your feet is the most important. Do not neglect to get some good socks. Merino wool blends (some nylon will make them last longer) are excellent for wicking moisture away and performing well in all temperatures, but some people prefer polyester (however, they will smell more!). 

Moving upward, you could invest in a pair of hiking pants with zip-off legs. You may think that these look dorky at first, but you will be grateful for the option to make an easy change from long pants to shorts and vice versa as the weather warms or cools. They should be made of a quick-dry, lightweight fabric. Check for a comfortable waistband and lots of pockets. Continuing up, a long sleeved, quick-dry shirt is a good choice for comfort and performance. The sleeves will protect against sun and insects, as well as providing a little warmth if the wind picks up. Choose polyester or merino wool according to your preference.

Top the look off with a hat or visor to keep the sun at bay. Desert hats have a fabric skirt down the back for maximum neck protection. Include polarized sunglasses and your eyeballs will appreciate it. 

Day Packs

The next thing you will hanker after is a good daypack. “Good” means that it has padded shoulder straps, hip and chest belts, and a pouch to carry a bladder for water. Packs come in different lengths to fit your back (many are adjustable) and conform to all body shapes. They also come in different sizes, designated by the amount of packing space each contains. Look for one that has a pocket for a bladder, which is a plastic two or three-liter pouch for water with a tube that comes out and extends within easy reach. A bite valve on the end makes water available at your fingertips whenever you want it without risking spillage. A good pack can last 15 or 20 years, so prepare to try on several and spend a little extra for the one that fits you best. 

Trekking Poles

You may want to have a pair of trekking poles, which are nothing more than lightweight, adjustable metal poles to steady you on downhill slopes or uneven terrain. They can come in handy, especially on muddy trails, but remember that they are a recent convention and you can always go primitive with a free walking stick fashioned from a downed branch.

Trail Apps

Now that you’re looking spiffy — or not, because other hikers don’t care what you wear — you will want to expand your repertoire of places to go. You can start by searching online for local hikes, but it sure is handy to have the trail right on your smartphone. Not only can you access that information via app, but you can browse recent reviews: Is it still snowy? Can I go halfway and get a view of the waterfall? What is a good time to go to avoid crowds? Is that a marmot or a groundhog? These are some of the best apps for hikers:

Finding a Hiking Buddy

Once you have graduated from circling the lake at your local park, it is a very good idea to find someone to hike with. That person could be your spouse or an adventurous friend, but if you need a hiking partner, you may have to be proactive. Start by telling your friends — on the pickleball court, where you volunteer, in your book club — that you are looking for a hiking friend. Check out local MeetUp groups; there may even be one near you for older adults or beginner hikers. Do a search for local hiking clubs, too. 

Hiking is great exercise and a fun way to explore. Whether you keep it local, start exploring your state, or even expand across the country, you will add lots of memories and likely friends too.





Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Is It Worth It to Switch to an Electric Car?



Electric vehicles are here. Is the higher price tag worth a lesser environmental impact and other potential benefits, or are there hidden costs?  


If you are thinking about getting a new car, you have likely considered buying an electric vehicle (EV). More and more of them will be hitting the roads as the auto industry transforms from producing primarily internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, to electric models. Zero-emission vehicles will account for 70% of new passenger vehicles globally by 2040, according to a Bloomberg study

ICE engines generally cost less upfront, people are familiar with the operating systems, and refueling is fast and easy to find. On the other hand, EVs are better for the environment, cheaper to charge than fuel with gasoline, and less expensive to maintain. But what are the real numbers?

Traditional Car Maintenance Not Required for Electric Vehicles

If you hate going to the mechanic, an EV may be for you. Your electric engine never needs an oil change, and recommended routine inspection frequency for most drivers (under 14,000 miles per year) is once per year. Yes. One time every year! Here is what else your EV will never need done or checked:
  • Replacing the spark plugs
  • Changing out fuel filters
  • Swapping the drive belts
  • Replacing the water pump
  • Carburetor flooding/issues
  • Blown head gaskets
  • Replacing belts/hoses
  • Radiator problems
  • Ring and cylinder wear
  • Bearings/crankshafts/camshafts
  • Exhaust system/pipes

Maintenance

The U.S. Department of Energy commissioned research that examined the maintenance costs of EVs versus traditional cars that run on gas. After accounting for all aspects of service, from oil changes to brake pads, the study found that light-duty gas vehicles cost 10.1 cents per mile to maintain, whereas similar battery electric vehicles could be serviced for 6.1 cents. That is a difference of $8,000 if each car travels 200,000 miles, the average expected lifetime of a gas-fueled car. But EVs are made to last an average of 300,000 miles, putting the cost savings at $12,000.

Fuel

Energy costs for gasoline, and especially electricity, vary from state to state. Currently, there is no gas tax for electric cars, although some states add a tax to EVs to replicate it. According to AAA, the average fuel cost for an EV is between 4 and 5 cents per mile. If gas is $3 a gallon and your ICE car gets 35 miles per gallon, then it costs 8.6 cents per mile to operate, or nearly double the EV fuel cost.  

But there are some hidden costs to driving electric vehicles, according to EV owner Patrick Anderson. He lists four factors that are often not taken into account:
  1. The cost of a home charger. Home EV chargers cost between $300 to $600 for a Level 1 charger, according to Carvana. You simply plug the unit in yourself and you are ready to go, but it can take up to 20 hours to charge your car. A much faster Level 2 charger runs $500 to $700 with an additional $1,200 to $2,000 for the labor required for installation. 
  2. Commercial charging. It is always cheapest to charge your car at home. If you want to take your EV on road trips, if you travel more than 100 or so miles away from home, or you forget to charge it and need a boost when you are out and about, the cost will rise significantly. Commercial charges are generally about three to four times that of residential rates, and some charge a one-time fee to use them. 
  3. The EV tax. Some states currently (and likely all states eventually) charge an EV tax to make up for the losses of taxable gas vehicles. In Michigan, for example, it ranges from $135 to $235, depending on the model.
  4. Deadhead miles. These are hours you may spend driving around, searching for a charger. Use an app like PlugShare to avoid wasting time.

Subsidies

Most electric and plugin hybrid vehicles are eligible for up to a $7,500 federal subsidy on the purchase price. The amount you get will depend on factors like battery capacity. Unfortunately, most Teslas are no longer eligible for the credit, a victim of their own popularity. Once the company sold 200,000 vehicles, the credit phased out. The Build Back Better Act, if passed into law, would include significant refundable tax credits that include Tesla vehicles. 

State and local incentives may also apply, so be sure to check in your area. 

Are EVs Really All That Green?

The short answer is yes. But just because EVs have no exhaust emissions, that does not mean that there are no associated environmental impacts. 

  • Power plants that rely on coal to generate electricity emit carbon pollution. Energy generated by renewable resources such as wind and solar have an extremely small carbon footprint. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed an interactive online tool to calculate the climate impacts of different vehicle models. For instance, on average, an all-electric Chevy Bolt will produce about 189 grams of carbon dioxide for every mile driven over its lifetime, whereas a 2022 gas-powered Toyota Camry will emit 385 grams. A gas-fueled Ford F-150 pickup will produce 636 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. But those numbers vary depending on how many coal-fired plants are on the electric grid. Many countries are pushing to clean up their electric grids; the U.S. has retired hundreds of coal plants over the last decade. “The reason electric vehicles look like an appealing climate solution is that if we can make our grids zero-carbon, then vehicle emissions drop way, way down,” said Jessika Trancik, an associate professor of energy studies at MIT. “Whereas even the best hybrids that burn gasoline will always have a baseline of emissions they can’t go below.”
  • Using raw materials is problematic. Cobalt and lithium are required in lithium-ion cells. Cobalt is mined largely in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a large proportion of mines are unregulated. Adults and children mine using hand tools, even though particles emitted during mining may be radioactive and cause cancer, vision problems, vomiting, nausea, heart problems and thyroid damage, according to Science Direct. The mining produces waste that can leach into the environment, affecting nearby communities. The smelting process can emit harmful air pollution. Lithium mining operations use groundwater to pump out brines, reducing the amount of water available for farmers and herders in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, where these mines are found. Consequently, it requires 50% more water to make an electric vehicle than one fueled by gas. Technology to address some of these issues is in development, such as finding a way to make batteries without cobalt. Until then, raw materials should be responsibly sourced to improve conditions in the mines.
  • Spent batteries are difficult to reuse and recycle. While 99% of lead-acid batteries are recycled in the U.S. (in part due to legislation), only 5% of lithium-ion batteries are recycled. Some 12 million tons of lithium-ion batteries are projected to retire between now and 2030. Tesla announced in August 2021 that it has started building a recycling facility at its Gigafactory in Nevada. Redwood Materials already extracts copper and cobalt then sends the refined metals out to manufacture new batteries. The Department of Energy also launched its own recycling project, ReCell, in early 2019. One challenge is that the batteries have not been made with recycling in mind, and the components are welded together and hard to separate. At UK startup Aceleron, engineers are working on batteries that use fasteners instead, which can be removed later to replace faulty components. Another concept is to reuse batteries that cannot hold enough charge for a car but would be perfectly fine to store solar or wind power, which would allow them to last a decade or more. Companies like Enel Group in Spain and Powervault in the UK are running trials with retired batteries. This technology would have the secondary bonus of displacing toxic lead-acid batteries, many of which are used for stationary energy storage. Legislation could also help. The European Union and China already have laws in place requiring battery manufacturers to pay for establishing collection and recycling systems. The Global Battery Alliance is working on a battery passport to enable the tracking and performance management of every battery across the supply chain, from mining to recycling and repurposing. 

There is not enough space here to address yet more benefits of electric vehicles: there is the fun factor (they can accelerate amazingly fast) and they are at the forefront of the self-driving car movement, with several models at or on the cusp of allowing you to eat or read while you are on the road. 

Whether or not to invest in an electric vehicle is a personal decision, and one not to be made lightly, considering the cost of a car these days. Maybe you will want to sit back and hold onto the old SUV in your garage another year, watching as more and more EVs roll out. But before you make up your mind, be sure and take all the variables into account. 





Thursday, April 7, 2022

Why Coffee Is a Health Food for Older Adults



Quit feeling guilty over your morning cup(s) of joe. Research shows that coffee can help prevent dementia, improve cardiovascular health, and increase lifespan.  


Coffee can help seniors maintain a healthy lifestyle. That is the conclusion of a plethora of studies on the steamy liquid that is synonymous with waking up for many Americans over 60. In fact, the morning brew has been shown to reduce a number of health issues. The main active ingredient in coffee, caffeine, is an antioxidant. Antioxidants help block damage related to aging:
 
  • Coffee can keep cells more elastic, reducing the hardening of arteries that takes place over time that weakens the cardiovascular system. 
  • The risk of stroke is reduced by up to 22%. Even one cup of coffee per week was found beneficial to reduce stroke and improve heart health.
  • Caffeine may prevent or delay age-related cognitive impairment, including dementia. One study that tracked people from middle age to the 70s found a reduced lifetime risk of dementia.
  • Drinking caffeinated coffee cuts the risk of mouth and throat cancer in half and reduces the risk of many other types of cancer, as well as Type 2 diabetes.
  • The mood boost associated with coffee can increase motivation and alertness, in turn lowering the risk of mental health issues like depression.
  • People who drink coffee on a regular basis have an overall lower risk of death than those who do not. 

How Much is Too Much?

Most studies have centered on consumption in the range of three to five eight-ounce cups, or up to 400 milligrams of caffeine. This amount reduces the risk of suicide for both men and women by 50%, and the overall risk of early death by 15% (this latter statistic holds true even for decaf drinkers).

Have You Been Drinking Coffee Wrong?

Want to give your productivity a boost? You can optimize your coffee consumption by making three simple changes:
  1. Hold off on that first cup. The ideal time to have your initial sip is 60 to 90 minutes after waking up. Why? Coffee disturbs the production of cortisol, which tells you to wake up and be alert. Let your cortisol peak before you augment it with a slug of caffeine, experts say.
  2. Do not forget that a lot of the flavor in your coffee comes from the water. “Over 98% of a cup of drip coffee is water, so if you have bad water, you’re going to have bad coffee,” Balderrama says. “Make sure the water you’re putting in your drink — even the ice cubes in your iced coffee!  —  is filtered, because it will infinitely improve the quality of your cup.”
  3. Go for a “nappuccino.” Ah, there is nothing like a quick catnap to restore your energy levels. You may even follow it up with a cup of afternoon coffee. Wrong! Studies show that drinking coffee before you take a quick nap is optimal. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in and give you the boost you need after a little rest.

But not all coffee is created equal. The method used to make the brew can have a big impact on LDL cholesterol, which can damage the arteries, and triglycerides levels. Filtered coffee, which passes through a paper filter prior to consumption, filters out potentially dangerous oily chemicals called diterpenes. Seniors who use a French press instead of filters are at risk of raising their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It may not be enough to affect their health, but if either of those values is high for you, consider switching to filtered coffee.

You may be relieved to know that, with warm weather approaching, iced coffee lovers can safely turn to cold brew. This holds true for both caffeinated and decaffeinated brews. Cold brew coffee is made by steeping the grounds in cold water for a period of hours, after which the coffee is strained through a paper filter. 

Downside of Coffee 

Michael Pollan, the author of This Is Your Mind on Plants, has called caffeine “the enemy of good sleep.” He relates how, after weaning himself from coffee, he “was sleeping like a teenager again.” Caffeine has other undesirable side effects for some people:
  • Diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues due to high acid content.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Dehydration, possibly putting stress on the kidneys.
  • Elevated blood pressure, which is a temporary condition. 

When in doubt, ask your doctor if you should switch to decaffeinated coffee and if there are any other side effects you should be aware of. Seniors with migraines, insomnia, urinary incontinence, muscle tremors, stomach problems, or anxiety are more likely to have trouble with caffeine. Drug interactions are most likely to occur with ephedrine, echinacea, and theophylline.

When attempting to reduce the caffeine content of their coffee, many older adults reach for a lighter roast. Wrong! “The darker you roast the beans, the more caffeine burns away,” explains Mike Balderrama, regional educator for Counter Culture Coffee.

Another caveat: be aware of what you are stirring into your coffee. For all the benefits of the brew itself, many people negate them by adding cream, sugar, or processed alternatives that add calories and fat. 

Coffee can be a key component in the healthy lifestyle of older adults. Enjoy it in moderation, knowing you are reducing your chances of getting cancer, dementia, and a host of other diseases. Coffee can augment healthy food choices and daily activity to help you live your best life.