Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Should You Get Surgery?

Many older adults will face the question of whether or not to undergo surgery. Here’s what to check before you make that decision. 

Millions of Americans have surgery every year. But if it’s you deciding whether or not to undergo elective surgery, it’s important to ask the right questions so you can understand your options. There are risks and benefits to any type of surgical procedure, and understanding them is key to making a good decision as well as being happy with the outcome. 

Here are key questions to ask before you decide to get surgery.

  • What exactly does the operation involve? Ask your provider exactly what will be done during the procedure, and if there are alternate ways of doing it. If there are, ask why they prefer a certain method. 

It May Be Time for Surgery If…  

  • You’ve tried to manage the condition through non-surgical means, but you’ve been unsuccessful. 
  • Your condition or pain is getting worse.
  • Your quality of life is getting worse.
  • Your doctor has told you that surgery is your best option.

Collecting Information

Most of us are not at our best as far as recalling information accurately when we are under stressful circumstances, such as when we’re gathering information about a potential surgery. It’s wise to have a backup to help review what you’ve heard and make sense of recommendations.

Bringing a spouse or trusted partner along to an appointment with your surgeon can be a big help. They can provide another set of ears and help ask questions that you may overlook. This person can also take notes for you to go through afterward.

Ask your doctor for printed information about the procedure you’re considering. 

Using the Abridge app will help you record, summarize and structure medical conversations so that you and your doctor will be able to refer back to what was said, clarify if needed, or add more information. 

Never be afraid to keep asking questions until you fully understand what your doctor is trying to communicate. 

If you’ll be in the hospital, patient advocates or nurse navigators can liaison between the hospital and the patient to explain procedures and guide the patient through what can be a complex system.

  • Why is the surgery needed? Will the surgery only relieve pain, or will it allow you to live longer or have more energy or other benefits? Don’t assume you know the answer.
  • What are the alternatives? There are always alternatives, such as “watchful waiting” to see if the condition improves or worsens over time. There may also be less-invasive procedures. 
  • What are the benefits? Ask specifically what benefits you can expect, and how long they may last. Your healthcare provider should be able to give you published data about likely outcomes. 
  • What are the risks? Every surgery carries the risk of complications, so it’s important to ask this question before making any decisions. You should talk with your doctor about side effects you should look for, and how any pain will be managed afterward. 
  • Where can I get a second opinion? Many insurance plans will cover getting a second opinion for certain procedures, or you may choose to get one for your own peace of mind. Your doctor should be able to give you names of other qualified individuals who can advise you, or you can pick a general practitioner in the field. 
  • What are my doctor’s credentials? If you want to check on your surgeon’s credentials, you can research board certifications at the American Board of Surgery website. The website for your doctor’s practice often features a short bio on each of the practitioners.
  • How many of these procedures has the surgeon done? “Practice makes perfect” is often true, and you’ll want to ask how many of this particular surgery your doctor has done over their career, and in the last year. If they can’t recall or get huffy, it’s time to look for another surgeon.
  • Will I go to the hospital? Nowadays many surgeries are performed at outpatient facilities, obviating the need for a hospital room and associated costs. But some procedures will still require admitting you to a hospital. Ask your doctor where your surgery will be done, and why. 
  • How will anesthesia be given? Will you get local, regional, or general anesthesia, and why? What will the effects be? Who will be giving your anesthesia?
  • What will recovery be like? How long will you be in the hospital or center, what restrictions will you have following surgery and for how long? Will you need any special supplies or equipment to help you recover? What are the best- and worse-case scenarios?
  • How much will it cost? You will need to check with your health plan provider to see what your plan covers and how much you’ll be expected to pay. Check what the cost would be for any alternate treatment or surgery.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Preparing for Retirement: The 7-Step Plan

Many boomers are stressed out trying to save enough for retirement. Planning well can be half the battle.   

After steep losses in the markets last year, even folks who thought they’d saved enough to retire on are having second thoughts. Boomers are the first generation raised largely with defined contributions (usually to 401[k] plans) rather than defined benefits (pensions) expected to carry them through retirement. The changeover has been problematic for many. 

Lifespans are increasing, lengthening the time that older adults expect to live in retirement … and the years their nest egg must last. Healthcare costs have risen dramatically, and it’s more likely than ever that seniors will end up in an expensive retirement facility or nursing home over some part of their life. 

Retirement Savings

The average household net worth of this cohort born between 1946 and 1964 is an impressive $1.2 million. However, that includes some very wealthy individuals. Averages are derived from adding up a group’s total net worth and dividing it by the number of people in that group. The more telling median net worth, midway along a frequency distribution, is only a little over $200,000. 

Boomers Who Left the Workplace Often Fired 

In spite of the Fed raising rates, the labor market remains tight. An exodus called the Great Resignation occurred during the COVID years, when people quit their jobs at rates not seen before. A new study reveals that many older folks aged 55 to 74 didn’t just leave; they were fired. 

While reporting about the Great Resignation leads us to believe that these workers quit, the research found that “most of these ‘retirements’ occurred after periods of unemployment rather than directly from employment.” To clarify, they got canned, spent a while unemployed, and then retired after not being able to find work.

Many lost their jobs in the early days of COVID-19. About 35 million older employees were working as of March 2020, but a month later 11% (3.8 million) had lost their job. Of that number, only 2% decided to retire then, but after a year 400,000 were involuntarily retired. Will they return? Study authors concluded that “low levels of wage growth suggest that the decision to remain retired may not reflect the preferences of many retirees, but rather the lack of demand for their skills and experience.” 

Many savers in the boomer generation were hit hard by the great recession of 2008. Fearing for their portfolios, they pulled money from the market and turned to the safety of bonds at the start of a long period when interest rates were low and returns were meager. Those who looked to the steady yields from savings accounts fared even worse, with some of the lowest interest payouts in recent history. 

Others doubled down and bought up depressed real estate, or stashed money in a market that produced a very long bull cycle. Some made a fortune in the booming tech industry, or simply held good W-2 jobs and kept putting money into their retirement account.

Whether you’re on the shakier side of covering retirement, or doing well enough to have many options, there’s a lot to consider when you stop working. So, how can those of us who are somewhere in the process of retiring improve our odds of living comfortably, no matter what life brings? 

  1. Know your budget numbers. Keep track of your current spending, on paper or digitally, for at least a year. It’s easy to be spending more than you think you do for restaurants, clothing, vacations … you name it. You want to have a firm grip on expenses for two reasons. First, you may be able to pare down the outflow and sock more away. Second, you’ll need to analyze which expenses may go up, and which may go down once you’re not working. This will help you figure out your future budget for needs and wants in retirement.
  2. Go over your investment accounts. You may have an old 401(k) at a company you worked for a decade ago, or other stray accounts you’ve almost forgotten about, that need to be rounded up. Should your 401(k) be rolled into an IRA? Should your IRAs be consolidated? Is the money invested properly, with diverse assets? Should you roll a portion of your IRA into a Roth? Is there a right time to make any of these moves down the road? If you are unsure about what to do, talk to your company’s benefits team about a current retirement account. You might also benefit greatly by talking to a representative at your brokerage, or by hiring a financial professional.
  3. Plan for Social Security. There are different ways you can make withdrawals, and it’s critical that you’ve looked at your options and chosen a course of action. Go to My Social Security and create an account to see when you can get benefits and how much you’ll receive. You can claim as early as 62, but it pays to wait until full retirement age or up to age 70 to increase your benefits. Social Security is a lifetime annuity that comes with cost of living increases; make sure you analyze your options to make the right choice. 
  4. Create a plan for making withdrawals. You likely have several kinds of accounts that are taxed differently, such as a traditional IRA, a Roth, and a taxable account. Not only is each suitable for distinct investments, but they also should be viewed differently when it’s time to withdraw money in retirement. In a simplified example, you’d withdraw from the taxable account first, then the IRA, then the Roth, to let the account with the least tax liability grow the longest. However, every situation (and spending year) is different, so speak with a CPA and/or financial advisor to make wise choices and save money. You might also want to touch on the most efficient way to make charitable donations.
  5. Plan for Medicare. Healthcare will likely be an increasing expense as you grow older. It’s crucial to understand Medicare basics and make a wise choice from the get-go. You must register for Medicare in the three months before your 65th birthday, the month of your birthday, or the three months following. Otherwise, you may be penalized with higher costs for your lifetime. Medicare is complicated. You can go to your state Medicare office or live chat 24/7 with a real person to make sure you enroll in a plan that will work for you.
  6. Get a life. If you only have vague notions of what you might do in retirement, it’s time to start exploring your options. You’ll have almost 7 ½ hours of free time every day, and you’ll be a lot healthier and happier if you have a purpose. That might be spending time with the grandkids, volunteering for the local food bank, taking up painting and pickleball, or combining all four. Every retirement is unique, but it’s important to have strong social connections and the sense that you’re making the world a better place.
  7. Consider where you live. Maybe downsizing to a cozier place with no stairs feels right. Some people never want to leave the home where they raised their kids. Others who have thick wallets want to buy a larger house where the family can gather after children have left and grandchildren arrive. Some will move to Florida for sunshine and no state income tax, while others find their dream home on the shore of a Great Lake. It’s a very personal decision, and you’ll have to think through your options.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice from a qualified financial advisor.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Senior Travel on a Budget

More older adults are traveling than ever. We’ve got ways to stretch your dollars whether you’re staying close to home or hopping a flight overseas. 

Americans love to travel, and that’s truer after the pandemic than at any time in history. A recent AARP survey found that the typical annual travel budget is $8,400 - up almost $2,000 from a year ago. Still, we are all looking for good deals, whether we are staying stateside or taking advantage of a strong dollar to go overseas. 

Seniors are often on a fixed income, so they really need to watch where every greenback is going. There are plenty of tricks to keeping more of them in your pocket (maybe enough to take another trip!). A few are specific to older folks, but a lot of them come from our knowledge of how to travel hack at any age. 

Airfare for Seniors

Start looking for cheap plane tickets on flight deal websites like Travel Pirates or Airfarewatchdog. Search budget carriers on Momondo or Skyscanner, but remember that these sometimes require booking through a third party. It’s wise to get travel insurance if you go down this route. But no matter where you’ve looked, check out Google Flights to see if you can save money by flying into Paris instead of Berlin, for example. Finally, go to the airline’s website to see if you can get a better deal by booking with them directly. When you’ve found the best deal from all the sites you’ve checked, book it.

National Park Service Senior Pass  

There may be no better deal for older Americans than the $80 lifetime pass to national parks and federal recreational sites. Everybody in your car at per-vehicle areas, or you and up to three companions, get free day admission to more than 2,000 recreation sites. Even better, you can camp for half price at any of these venues. (Bring an air mattress or treat yourself to a cabin if you want to live it up). 

Credit Card Rewards

Don’t forget to book everything with a travel credit card. You can get some amazing perks, including lounge access, TSA Pre and other recognition allowances, and points for airlines and hotels, to name a few. There are lots of places to check out the best travel credit cards online. 

You want to look for a card with a good sign-up bonus that doesn’t require you to spend a fortune. Then, decide if you want a card connected to a single airline or hotel, or one with points that transfer easily to a variety of airlines and venues. Maybe you’re after some sweet cash back. Just make sure that you pay off your balance every month, or you’ll defeat the purpose of using credit cards.

Take the Train

If you’re staying in the US, take a look at Amtrak rail service. Amtrak covers some interesting country with more than 500 destinations, and you can get a private room on many routes. Amtrak offers a 15% discount for seniors if you book with them online. 

Never did a backpack trip in your youth, or want to relive the one you had decades ago? Across the pond, seniors get a 10% discount on a Eurail train pass that operates in 33 countries. Better yet, you can easily hook up with walking tours through Eurail at many stops.

Hotels? Hostels! And More …

We are not knocking a stay at a fancy hotel, but if you want to spend less, try a hostel. That’s right, many hostels cater to people of any age. Just be sure to check reviews to see if the place has a party vibe or not. Some allow you to book a private room, or one with limited roommates. You’ll meet other adventurous people and share travel stories. For tips and suggestions, check out this blog for people over 30 staying in hostels.

Not quite willing to go the hostel route? Try an AirBnB or VRBO. These are destinations that the owner is renting out, usually by the night. Go as fancy or as low-key as you like. Choose a place on the bus or train route to make travel a snap.

Tours and Groups

Small group travel companies such as Intrepid Travel offer personalized trips and don’t charge an extra arm and leg for singles. The Freebird Club offers members, who must be 50 and over, a stay in their home or apartment and some social interaction as well. Operating the world over, it’s a unique chance to meet like-minded people who are also older adults. 

Another tried and true option is Road Scholar. This group concentrates on offering learning opportunities paired with travel at reasonable rates. They also have special deals for solo travelers. 

Wherever you’re going, it pays to try something a little different than what you’ve done before. Why not try a few days in a hostel next time you’re in Europe? Use the train instead of renting a car, or do a self-guided tour instead of being chaperoned. You’re more likely to meet locals … and have the time of your life!

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Is Watching TV Bad for Seniors? Studies Say Yes

According to a recent study, what older adults do while they’re sitting has an effect on their likelihood of getting dementia. Other research links TV watching to problems with walking. 

What harm is it to spend time in front of a television set, watching your favorite shows? Quite a bit, according to research. The latest study discovered a link between the likelihood of getting dementia and time spent watching TV, while another showed a strong association between viewing TV and having trouble walking.

Dementia and TV Watching by Seniors Linked

A new study of 146,651 adults aged 60 and above tracked for nearly 12 years found that those who spent their time sitting watching TV had a 24% increase in their risk of developing dementia, versus a 15% reduced risk for participants who spent that time on a computer. Researchers linked the data to the passive nature of watching TV versus the active thinking done while using a computer. 

How to Walk More (and Sit Less!)  

We know walking is good for us, and nearly all of us can do it. How can we get the most benefit and ensure we keep it up? The Mayo Clinic has some tips.
  • Start slowly and end slowly. Spend five or ten minutes warming up at the beginning of your walk, and the same amount cooling down. 
  • Do some gentle stretching at the end of your walk.
  • Vary your route. If you always take a certain path, walk it the other way or try some different loops. Drive somewhere new, perhaps a park, and do your walking there. 
  • Try to walk a little faster. Alternate brisk walking with slower walking, and then slowly lengthen the periods of faster walking.
  • Track your progress. Your smartphone is a great tool for monitoring your progress. Use the Apple fitness app or choose a free app that tracks steps.

Previous research has shown that physical exercise reduces the risk for cognitive decline and dementia, so it was notable that the odds of dementia for both the TV-watching group and those who used a computer stayed the same regardless of how physically active they were when not sitting down. 

“Reducing cognitively passive [sedentary behaviors] like TV watching and increasing cognitively active [ones] like computer use, by even a small amount,” noted the researchers, “may have an important impact on dementia risk in individuals, regardless of their engagement in physical activity.”

TV Watching Associated with Mobility Issues

While the latest study broke ground in the area of dementia, it’s not the first to warn older adults about the dangers of sitting in front of the television too long. Analysis done on the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study found that “greater TV time was significantly related to increased disability within all levels of physical activity.”

The study was comprised of more than a half million men and women aged 50 to 71 who were all healthy to start. Their TV viewing habits and levels of physical activity were followed for a decade. Researchers noted whether physical activity was vigorous, such as jogging, or more low-key, such as gardening or housework, and found that the effects of TV viewing remained constant regardless of the level of physical activity.

Walking Disability Affected Nearly One Third of Participants
At the end of the study, 30% of participants reported a walking disability ranging from “unable to walk” to only walking at an easy (slow) pace of less than two miles per hour. Study participants who watched TV for five or more hours daily fared the worst, being 65% more likely to have a walking disability than participants who limited viewing to two hours or less per day.

“TV viewing is a very potent risk factor for disability in older age” said lead study author Dr. Loretta Di Pietro, Chair of the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. “Sitting and watching TV for long periods (especially in the evening) has got to be one of the most dangerous things that older people can do because they are much more susceptible to the damages of physical inactivity.”

Participants who were at greatest risk of a mobility disability were those who had the highest levels of sitting and TV watching combined with the lowest (three hours or less weekly) physical activity. 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

They Tried Something New or Difficult; You Can Too

It absolutely does not matter how old you are to learn, to try, to begin something new. Let these people be your inspiration. 

You can forget about every other New Year’s vow if you just make one: to try something new every month this year. Before you say, “Bah, humbug!” hear us out. Each attempt can be as little, or as big, as you want it to be. You can try cornflakes instead of oatmeal if you never eat cornflakes. You can try going around the block if you hate getting outside. You can try finishing a nonfiction book if you prefer romances. Say hello to everyone you meet. Smile at a stranger. 

It’s Never Too Late Series  

The New York Times has created a series dubbed “It’s Never Too Late.” This inspiring collection touches on a wide variety of topics, from flying on a trapeze to changing your career. This month, we provide you the story link to explore the “something new” that six people undertook. Their comments and experiences reveal how one became a Bollywood actor in his 40s, another learned to swim at 68, and a third climbed the daunting El Capitan, for her first time, at 66.

Here’s some of what they said:

You can decide for yourself what you think you’re capable of. It’s just so sad when people say, oh, I’m 50, I can’t … fill in the blank. Try it anyway! Who cares! You might be surprised. 
-Dierdre Wolownick

Don’t give yourself an option to give up. I never thought about quitting. If I invest mentally, I don’t quit. 
-Vijaya Srivastava

Dream a big dream, then figure out what all the little incremental steps are to get there, and hit those steps one by one. There are always obstacles. 
-Richard Klein

You can also set your goal higher. Read every Sherlock Holmes mystery. Study the violin every day for a month. Get through a month without alcohol. Travel to a country where you don’t speak the language. Do an online yoga session every day. Get your heart rate down five beats. Learn the language of finance so you can talk to your financial advisor about your retirement nest egg with more confidence. 

Or you can alternate some easy and intermediate goals with some that may take you longer to accomplish, that challenge you more, and that you think may be impossible. It’s fine if you stick with easy ones, because accomplishing them may encourage you to try something else. Success is a strong motivator. Besides, what is easy for someone else may be hard for you. If you haven’t touched your toes in five years, that is a worthy goal. 

To get you started, we’d like to introduce you to some people who challenged themselves as older adults to do something rather remarkable. You don’t have to be remarkable on a world stage, but if they could do these things, ask yourself if you can do something.

  • Aged 66, Noah Webster finished the American Dictionary of the English Language.
  • Aged 68, Sir William Crookes started investigating radioactivity and then invented an alpha particle detector.
  • Aged 69, Ed Whitlock finished a marathon in under three hours.
  • Aged 71, Katsusuke Yanagisawa climbed Mount Everest.
  • Aged 75, Barbara Hillary became the first Black woman to reach the North Pole. She was a cancer survivor.
  • Aged 79, Asa Long was the US champion checkers player. 
  • Aged 81, BIll Painter reached the summit of Mount Rainier.
  • Aged 82, William Ivy Valdwin crossed the South Boulder Canyon on a 320-foot tightrope.
  • Aged 85, Theodor Mommsen won a Nobel Prize in Literature. 
  • Aged 86, Katherine Pelton beat the same age men’s record for the 200-meter butterfly.
  • Aged 88, Michelangelo created the building plans for the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
  • Aged 89, Arthur Rubinstein gave a recital in Carnegie Hall.
  • Aged 91, Allan Stewart finished a Bachelor of Law from the University of New England.
  • Aged 94, George Burns performed stand-up in Schenectady, New York.
  • Aged 96, Harry Bernstein published his first book, The Invisible Wall, that he wrote to cope with his loneliness after his wife of 70 years passed away.
  • Aged 98, Beatrice Wood exhibited her latest ceramics.
  • Aged 99, Teiichi Igarashi climbed Mount Fuji.
  • Aged 100, Fran Schearer waterskis regularly. 

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 14 - Danny Meyer, restaurateur 

Have you ever eaten at a Shake Shack? You can thank Danny Meyer for the popular fast food joint. But Meyer has also opened high-end eateries such as Union Square Cafe, Terrace 5 at MoMA, Porchlight, Gramercy Tavern, and Eleven Madison Square thanks to his Union Square Hospitality Group. Four of his restaurants managed to garner three-star reviews from The New York Times, and Eleven Madison Park (which has since changed hands) was awarded the coveted trio of Michelin stars.

Meyer got a political science degree from Trinity College in Hartford and worked on the presidential campaign for independent John Anderson before turning his career toward cooking as assistant manager at Pesca in New York City. Afterward, he delved into cooking as a culinary stagiaire (a smartypants word for untrained intern) in Italy and France. At the tender age of 27, Meyer opened the toney Union Square Cafe, and the rest is history.

Apart from all of his restaurant success, Meyer has written or co-written a handful of wildly successful cookbooks: The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe, and Setting the Table. His restaurants released the cocktail primer Mix, Shake, Stir

Meyer shuttered his restaurants when COVID-19 hit the US and noted in a May 1 podcast that taking a Paycheck Protection Program small business loan "could be the most irresponsible thing in the world for a restaurant to do." Two months later, reporters discovered that twelve different Meyer restaurants had received such loans, totaling more than $10 million. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 16 - Jorge Ramos, journalist 

“The Walter Cronkite of Latin America,” Jorge Ramos anchors the news program Noticiero Univision, political news television show Al Punto, and the English-language show America with Jorge Ramos that appears on Fusion TV. Ramos has won 10 Emmy Awards for journalism, covered five wars and was on a Time magazine list of the world’s most influential people.

Born in Mexico City, Ramos has since become an American citizen after working for decades in the US. When he first came to the US, he worked for a station with barely enough money to keep going, although it allowed him to express his own opinions. "To me it was a palace,” he says. “The United States gave me opportunities that my country of origin could not: freedom of the press and complete freedom of expression.”

Ramos was the founder of the first Spanish-language television book club, Despierta Leyendo (Wake Up Reading). He is also the creator of a documentary about hate groups in America, Hate Rising, for which he interviewed Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis at some risk to himself.

The journalist is a registered independent who has covered both US elections and those in Spanish-speaking countries.

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 20 - Holly Hunter, actress

Academy Award (The Piano) winner Holly Hunter has been nominated an additional trio of times for roles in Broadcast News, The Firm, and Thirteen. She also has a pair of Primetime Emmy Awards to her credit for television roles, and you may have caught her in Saving Grace on TV, or in one of her other appearances on the big screen, which include Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Incredibles and The Big Sick.

Hunter is deaf in her left ear from a childhood bout with the mumps, which can be cause for accommodations on set. That’s never stopped her acting ambitions, which began in high school productions like Fiddler on the Roof and resulted in a drama degree from Carnegie Mellon University. Soon afterward, Hunter moved to the Big Apple, where her roommate was none other than Frances McDormand. 

Like many ingenues, Hunter debuted in a slasher movie. Her work in The Burning got her foot in the proverbial studio door, and it was on to Los Angeles and stardom. Hunter dominated the 90s in film and has managed a steady career ever since. In 2021, she had a starring role opposite Ted Danson in the TV series Mr. Mayor.

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 21 - Gary Oldman, actor

Known for his work ethic and intensity, London-born actor Gary Oldman has wowed audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. While studying with the Young People’s Theatre in Greenwich during the 70s, Oldman held jobs selling shoes, working on an assembly line, and taking the heads off pigs in a slaughterhouse. He managed to graduate with an acting degree in 1979, describing himself at the time as “shy but diligent.”

Oldman has a mountain of acting credits, earning his bona fides first in England and then in the US after a pair of stunning performances as punkster Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy and a role in Prick Up Your Ears. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "There is no point of similarity between the two performances; like a few gifted actors, [Oldman] is able to reinvent himself for every role. On the basis of these two movies, he is the best young British actor around." In fact, the Sid Vicious role earned Oldman the 62nd slot in Premiere magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time.

Oldman became the accepted leader of a group of successful young British actors known as the Brit Pack which included Tim Roth, Colin Firth, and Daniel Day-Lewis. Oldman became known for his work portraying villains, including as the star of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which became a commercial success around the globe and earned him 1992’s Best Actor award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. 

You can catch Oldman on Apple TV+ in Slow Horses as the leader of a ragtag group of British spies, the actor’s first big role in a television series. Unfortunately, it will also be his last as Oldman has vowed to retire from acting when the series ends. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Best Dementia Prevention Is Not Drugs

To significantly reduce your risk of getting dementia, the simplest remedies involve exercising and taking care of your body. 

Having a family history of Alzheimer’s or other dementia can be anxiety-provoking at best. But researchers have found how to reduce your risk of getting the disease, even if your parents had dementia. This protective remedy isn’t found in a pill, it doesn’t have to cost a single penny, and nearly anyone can manage it. The key is exercise.

A trio of large, long-term studies have emerged that look at how much activity and what kind is best to confer protection. The combined research looked at hundreds of thousands of participants over years, sometimes decades, to reach their conclusions. 

Improved Eyesight, Hearing Yield Results  

Another recently published study found links to dementia in participants with poor eyesight and hearing. In this look at almost 3,000 adults aged 65 and up, dual sensory impairment was linked with a 160% increase in dementia risk and a 267% greater risk of Alzheimer’s. The study concluded that “evaluation of hearing and vision in older adults may help to identify those at high risk of developing dementia.” 

Worldwide, researchers estimate that 1.8% of all dementia cases could be prevented by healthy vision alone, according to Dr. Gill Livingston, a psychiatrist at University College London and chair of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care. The group is concentrating on behaviors and interventions that alleviate conditions — untreated high blood pressure, hearing loss, lower education levels, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, smoking, and low levels of social contact— known to increase the risk of dementia. Three more were added in 2020: excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injuries, and air pollution.

“Globally, 80 to 90 percent of vision impairment and blindness is avoidable through early detection and treatment, or has yet to be addressed,” says Joshua Ehrlich, an ophthalmologist and population health researcher at the University of Michigan. Why the link to dementia? Neural systems depend on stimulation from sensory organs to retain function. 

Vigorous exercise gave the most protection, but even doing household chores offered a meaningful reduction in the risk of getting the disease — even if there was a family history of dementia. 

Huge Study Tracks Exercise

The first study tracked more than half a million participants who did not have dementia, asking if they had genetic variants that have been found to be associated with dementia, or if they had immediate family members with the condition. 

This study looked at whether there were links between physical activity and the risk of getting dementia. Previous studies had failed to define physical activity well, so researchers wanted to know if participants regularly climbed stairs, walked, biked to work, played sports or worked out on weight machines, and on and on. 

Participants were tracked for 11 years, after which 5,185 showed signs of dementia. Participants who regularly engaged in “vigorous” physical activity fared the best, reducing their risk of getting dementia by a whopping 35%. But even those who only engaged in housework had a 21% lowered risk.

Creating and continuing a habit of daily or near-daily exercise “is likely to have a very profound synergistic effect,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, an assistant professor of neurology at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, who specializes in treating people with dementia. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Study Survey Urges Any Exercise

The second study reviewed the results of 38 research projects involving over two million people. Scientists found that after controlling for factors such as age, education and gender, participants who engaged in any form of exercise lowered their chance of getting dementia by 17% vs. those who did not. Walking, running, swimming, dancing and more all helped to fight off dementia. 

Adults Benefit from Childhood Exercise

Finally, a third study involving 1,200 children aged 7 to 15 for more than three decades suggested that adults who had higher levels of fitness as children functioned at a higher cognitive level in midlife. 

“Your brain is part of your body and is going to benefit from anything you do that is good for your general health,” says Dr. Sandra Weintraub, a neurologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. 

Aim for 150 minutes or more of moderate or high-intensity exercise per week, says Dr. Salinas. It’s “likely to have a very profound synergistic effect,” he says. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Monday, February 20, 2023

Do Retired Adults Need Life Insurance?

You may think that because the kids are out of the nest, there’s no more need for life insurance. But there are several ways it could benefit you in retirement. 

Most people understand the need for life insurance when a breadwinner is supporting children and perhaps a spouse, especially if their home is mortgaged. But what about the need for life insurance when your working days are over? You might jump to the conclusion that you should cancel life insurance policies. But there are several situations where life insurance can be quite useful, even in your golden years. 

Paying for surprise expenses. If you have a cash value policy, you can make a withdrawal or take out a loan against the policy to cover unexpected expenses, although it will reduce your death benefit. 

Pension replacement. Some pensions are not transferrable to a spouse or other dependent upon death, so life insurance can cover that gap.

What Other Insurance Do Retirees Need?  

As long as you are evaluating your need for life insurance, let’s consider what other types of insurance you will need in retirement.
  • Homeowners or renters insurance. You may be tempted not to carry homeowners insurance if your house is paid off, and who really needs renters insurance? But these can be costly mistakes from which you can’t recover. Keep your property insurance current.
  • Travel insurance. If you travel a lot, you may want to buy a product that provides emergency medical services, as well as trip delay or cancellation insurance. Another way to get these benefits is by signing up for certain travel-oriented credit cards, so check if you’re already covered.
  • Car insurance. Whether or not you get complete coverage for your new Tesla, or just the state-mandated minimum to take care of your beater car, don’t overlook vehicle insurance.
  • Umbrella policy. If you have frequent visitors to your home, a renter under your roof, or assets someone might like to go after, an umbrella policy provides substantially increased liability coverage at an affordable price. 

Estate planning tool. Your heirs can use the payout from your life insurance policy to pay estate taxes, rather than selling assets during a market downturn. 

 •      Covering funeral costs. Insurance payouts are available quickly so family members can pay for your burial expenses.

Protect against stock market drops. Cash value life insurance can afford you some protection when other assets fall. You could also borrow from a life insurance policy to avoid selling assets to maintain your lifestyle in a down economy. 

Smooth asset distribution to heirs. Perhaps you’re leaving the house to your firstborn, your IRA to the second child, and your third child will inherit your life insurance policy. However you split it, life insurance can help even out inherited assets. 

Cover debt. Nearly half of homeowners 65 and older are still paying down a mortgage, and many are in debt for student loans for themselves or from co-signing a loan for a grandchild. Continuing life insurance can be a good idea to cover those debts after you’re gone. 

Provide for special needs children or spouse. Covering loved ones can be a big incentive to continue paying for life insurance in retirement. 

Covering business debt. If a business you own has borrowed a large sum, the bank may require you to carry life insurance. Likewise, business partners often each carry their own policy to aid in succession planning. 

You can see that there are a wide variety of reasons for starting or continuing life insurance in your senior years. But let’s look at some reasons for not having life insurance as an older adult.

High cost. Since life insurance pays upon death, it’s going to be more expensive the older you are. You may do better to invest the money you would have paid in premiums in the stock market, bonds, or another asset. 

Cash value fees. Life insurance has more than one component (insurance plus investment). Commissions and fees can be high.

Other assets provide for you. If most of your retirement income is produced by IRAs and other retirement sources invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and bank savings, and/or you own real estate, they are transferable to heirs through a will or trust. 

If you already have life insurance policies in place, here are a couple of things to consider: 

You can probably let your term policies expire as long as any dependents have access to other sources of plentiful income. 

Cash value policies (whole life or permanent life rather than a term policy) purchased a number of years ago may have considerable value, and it grows tax deferred. You may be able to pull out some of the value tax-free for any needs. Consider letting your policy grow until a time when the money is needed. It may be possible to surrender your policy in order to convert it to a life annuity for lifetime income. Just make sure this will not trigger a tax consequence. 

As you can see, answering the question of whether you need life insurance after retirement can be a complicated proposition. This is where you’ll want to bring in your financial advisor and perhaps a tax professional to help you come up with the right answer. They can help you make the best decision for your own unique situation.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Got the Winter Blues? Try These Remedies

If the short days and cold of winter are getting to you, we’ve got some great ideas for feeling better fast!

The daylight hours are finally starting to stretch out … but way too slowly for some of us. What we all need is a pick-me-up, but that can be hard to find when you don’t feel like getting off the couch. 

Most of our suggestions are free or low-cost. The point isn’t to shop yourself into a better mood. After all, research shows that the high of spending money on things is temporary, and sometimes followed by remorse over a smaller bank account. Accordingly, we sought things that almost anyone could do with very little money spent. 

Pick one idea from our list every day for a week, try it out, and prepare to feel a whole lot better!

  • Treat yourself. Light a scented candle and enjoy the aroma spreading around the room. Floral scents are known to be particularly good at lifting moods, but if you prefer vanilla or pumpkin spice, go for it. Another option is to buy a latte or macchiato and sit in your favorite coffee house. Buy (or bake) something wonderful and sit down to savor every bite. Or get some bath salts and have a good soak. 
  • Read. Iceland tops the happiness chart and its citizens read more books than any other nation. "Reading and embracing stories has been shown to increase our empathy, make us happier, and develop new neural pathways,” says Helen Russell, author of The Atlas of Happiness. If you’re not in the mood for a long novel, you don’t have to tackle War and Peace; pick up a poetry book and flip to random pages. Read the poems quietly or out loud for new viewpoints.
  • Eat, drink and be merry. Actually, eat and drink in a social setting and the merriness will follow. Russell’s book research uncovered a study that found levels of happiness went up nearly 11% when volunteers drank alcohol in a social environment. Invite a friend over for a glass of wine or a cup of tea or gather at a nearby bar for light imbibing and heavy socialization. 
  • Be kind. Shovel someone else’s sidewalk. Leave some cookies on a neighbor’s doorstep. Give a compliment to the next five people you encounter. Help a stranger carry packages into the post office. Write a card to a friend and thank them for specific help that person has given you, perhaps by listening to your woes or helping you see how to handle a difficult situation. Give praise to a child. Stifle a judgmental comment and offer a smile instead. Giving to others makes us feel good.
  • Do a five-minute declutter. It doesn’t have to be five minutes, but it should be very doable. Set a timer and quit when you’ve reached your goal, or make it your goal to clean the top shelf of a closet rather than the whole thing. Maybe you’ll want to keep going, but if you just reach your goal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and order. Donate discards to a free-cycle group or take them to a donation center and give yourself another pat on the back.
  • Learn something. There is no age limit on learning. Set yourself a small goal, such as spending 15 minutes online reading up on the life of orcas or octopuses. (Your grandchildren will be in awe). Use YouTube to learn how to replace a light switch or grout tile. You don’t have to actually do it; understanding how it’s done can be its own reward. Install a language app and devote five minutes a day to Italian. Check if your local library is holding any events, or go to the next meeting of your local historical society. 
  • Paint a wall. A can of paint can lift your spirits. Choose one wall to do in an accent color that will brighten your mood every time you walk in the room. Uh oh … did you decide the new look isn’t as attractive as you thought it would be? Pick another color and try again. Don’t be afraid of bright, bold colors, especially if you choose a smaller wall to cover. 
  • Reflect sunshine. If only we could put in more windows to fill our houses with light! That’s usually impractical, but interior decorators have a trick to make rooms seem more full of light than they actually are. Hang a big mirror or set it against a wall where it will reflect the sunshine from a favorite window view and make your room appear larger in the bargain. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Best Phone Plan for Seniors

Phone companies are battling for your business. Take advantage with a low-cost plan that meets your needs. 

More than 90% of older adults in the US have a cell phone, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, and usually it’s a smartphone. Baby boomers aging into the senior space have been using the devices for years and are likely to want all the features their younger counterparts insist on. The older cohort may just need to talk and text in order to keep up with family and friends. There’s a plan for everyone to get a great deal on phone service these days.

One thing you don’t want to do is look for a cheaper plan with your current carrier online. If you’ve got an account with them, they probably know who you are and their software will only show you more expensive plans or bundles. You’ve got to call or head down to your local store to get the lowdown — or find a plan you like in this article and tell them what you want.

Features for Older Adults

There are several plan options you may want to look at before exploring a new carrier and/or service. Pick those that best suit your style of usage, whether that’s smartphone guru or weaning off your old landline. 

How Much Data Do You Use?  

Before you start looking around for a plan, you need to know how much data you use per month to see if the plan fits your needs. iPhone users can find that information by going to Settings>Cellular. Android users should follow Settings>Connections>Data Usage. If you need help, any carrier can walk you through the steps and tell you if you need unlimited data or a lesser amount.
  • Talk and Text. If you don’t have a smartphone, or all you want to use it for is making calls and texting, then talk and text is for you. These plans are super cheap and sometimes come with perks for us older folks.
  • Unlimited. At long last, phone companies have reasonably priced plans for people who use apps, check out YouTube or stream videos, and otherwise use their smartphone a whole lot. These include unlimited talk, text, and data so you will never get dreaded overcharge fees added to your bill ever again. 
  • Prepaid. You may already pay your phone bill automatically every month, but plans labeled “prepaid” are a different beast. Not much different — you will still pay automatically but they often involve a lower cost than you had originally, and you will have to call or show up at your carrier to find out about them. You can also surf the net to discover any deals, but don’t expect to find your carrier reaching out to you, offering a lower monthly bill.
  • No Contract. After the big carriers have been roping us in for years, tied to years-long contracts, they are now being challenged by smaller carriers who go month-by-month. Many of the big boys (we’re talking about you, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint) have seen the competition and decided to reform at long last. So go ahead and raise your eyebrows if a carrier says you need a long contract for your phone business and do plenty of checking around. 

Let’s get down to brass tacks and start talking about the type of coverage you need, who can give it to you cheapest, and how much it will cost. 

  1. You want great coverage combined with all the data you can get your fingers on? Verizon scores best of the major carriers for performance and reliability, so it’s a great pick if you travel around the country or just want to know you don’t have to go down to the telephone pole at County Road 62 to get service. (Probably — always check around to see which carrier works best in your home area). Better yet, Verizon’s Start Unlimited Plan costs just $30 per month and comes with unlimited talk, text, and data. Seniors 55+ who live in Florida should ask about Verizon’s 55+ Unlimited Plan that has extra discounts.
  2. If you gobble data like a turkey talks, check out T-Mobile’s three 55+ plans that range from $27 to $45 per month. 
  3. For those who are more comfortable sticking to calls and texts, and those who don’t want a newfangled smartphone, look into Republic Wireless’ Unlimited Talk & Text Plan for $15 monthly or less if you pay a year upfront.
  4. Don’t need unlimited but want to have the option of using some data? Consumer Cellular’s Unlimited Talk & Text + 3GB gives you all the chatting and texting you can handle, plus a little data to browse the news or check the weather. Get it for $25 a month, with an extra 5% discount for AARP members.
  5. Want a cheap plan that’s super easy and has no contract? Mint Mobile gives you unlimited talk and text plus 4GB of 5G data per month for $15.
  6. Want a senior-friendly phone and cheap monthly fee, plus an urgent aid button and hearing aid compatibility? You’ve got it with Lively, which offers plans starting at 250 minutes of talk for $14.99 per month.