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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tips To Help Protect Older Adults From Identity Thieves

Tips To Help Protect Older Adults From Identity Thieves

Identity Theft is the fastest growing crime in America with an ID theft occurring approximately every two seconds (Federal Trade Commission estimates). When a crime is this prevalent, it is very likely that a percent of older adults in the US will become victims. Identity Theft is a crime in which the thief obtains key pieces of personal identifying or financial information for the purposes of obtaining credit, merchandise, identification, benefits, employment, medical care or services in the name of the victim. This information is also frequently used to provide fraudulent information to law enforcement during a traffic stop or when arrested for a crime.

Identity Theft can cause a number of problems for a victim that will last for months or even years, and is often devastating in its effects. The impact of Identity Theft may be much more severe for an older adult who might lack the access to resources and support or find the details of the crime overwhelming. As professionals who work with the older adult population, it is important to understand the impact of the crime, how to respond to the crime and how to help clients prevent Identity Theft. In this blog post, we will discuss crime prevention techniques for Identity Theft perpetrated by strangers. This blog post does not address caregiver and family member related ID Theft; however this is a unique and devastating form of ID Theft that must be recognized.

A commonly held and vocalized belief is that older adults are more vulnerable to ID thieves because they are often more isolated, lonely and trusting. While this may be true in some cases, this theory is misleading and encourages a stereotypical image of the older adult victim. The truth is that everyone is vulnerable to Identity Theft and everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves from the ID thieves. Older adults who are active and have dynamic social lives are as vulnerable to Identity Theft as more isolated older adults. The difference is in the ability to access resources and to cope with the stress of the crime. Whether isolated by choice, disability, illness or by geographic location; an older adult who experiences Identity Theft and the often related fraud/scams who does not have an active social support network and access to resources will need additional time and assistance in responding to crime. Similarly, these older adults may need more time and attention when creating a crime prevention plan.

ID Theft Prevention
Check List

Never give any personal or financial information to someone you do not know.

  1. When in doubt, check it out. If someone calls you saying they are from an organization or creditor, hang up. Look up that phone number and call the company directly to see if they actually tried to contact you.

  2. Do not share personal or financial details on social media.

  3. Use credit not debit. You have much more protection when using credit. If your debit card is stolen, the thief will have access to your bank account.

  4. Install a quality security/anti-virus program on your computers, tablets, and smartphones.

  5. Set up auto updates for your computer/smartphone operating systems and your security system.

  6. Do not open emails, text messages, or attachments from someone you do not know or trust. Never, never, ever “Click here.”

  7. Check your financial accounts frequently to ensure all charges listed are legitimate. Report any suspicious activities or inaccuracies immediately.

Source: Colorado Bureau of Investigation

It is also important to let older adults know why they may be targeted by ID thieves and scams artists more often than younger adults. The biggest reason older adults are a target is that they have more to steal. Older adults have (or are perceived by the criminals as having) more equity in their homes, more money, more freedom to access money, better credit, fewer debts and more liquid assets than younger adults. Criminals believe that because older adults are not as often in the process of buying homes, obtaining loans or making large purchases like vehicles; they will check their credit reports less frequently and will remain unaware of fraudulent activities.

When helping older adults understand how to protect themselves from ID Theft, it is important to give them the same advice that is given to younger adults. That advice? Be vigilant, guard your personal identifying and financial information, be cautious when using the Internet, understand that your Smartphone is a computer, check your accounts frequently, and immediately report any suspicious activity. While the advice is the same, the method of sharing it might be slightly different when working with an older adult.

Knowledge of how ID thieves obtain personal information is critical in preventing the crime. Some ID thieves still employ “old fashioned” means to obtain information such as dumpster diving, mail theft and burglaries/robberies. Therefore, it is still important to talk with older adults about shredding documents, being careful with both incoming and outgoing mail, and practicing general crime prevention techniques.

However, these days, it is much more common for ID thieves to use technology and scams to steal information. Today’s ID thief will use skimmers to obtain credit/debit card information, hack into computers, emails or Smartphones to obtain personal and financial information and perpetrate a data breach to steal large amounts of information at one time. Another favorite of ID thieves is the phishing scam. The thief will make phone calls, send emails or text messages, communicate on social media or send letters that will trick a victim into giving information.

Age Appropriate Prevention Tips

Reducing the risk of Identity Theft is possible, and taking a few steps to protect personal information can be quite simple. When assisting older adults in creating a crime prevention plan, it is important to realize that the majority of today’s older adults did not grow up with computers and cell phones. As more older adults embrace technology, they must also be taught about security and online vulnerabilities.

If an older adult with whom you are working is new to social media, it will be helpful for you to explain privacy and security settings. Remember, older adults over the age of 70 grew up in a culture where pen pals were common. Written communication with someone the person did not personally know, who might be in another country was seen as an adventure, not as a risk. For WWII era adults, falling in love with a deployed military member with whom you shared heartfelt letters was not uncommon. It is easy to see how someone with this cultural perspective might not think twice about “friending” a stranger or starting an online romance. For an older adult who loves to show off their grandchildren or even their beloved pets, posting and sharing photos and antidotes with anyone and everyone will not appear to pose any threat. Explain the importance of knowing people with whom you communicate and share information online.

Smartphones are another piece of technology that could be confusing for an older adult. It is hard to understand how all of that technology can be packed into a telephone. Many older adults love the Smartphone and its ability to keep them connected to family and friends. Many find great security in having a phone that can be carried in the event of a medical emergency or if they should fall. However, they may not understand the dangers associated with Smartphone hacking and the installation of malware. Show the older adults you know how all of the pieces of the Smartphone work, including Apps and privacy settings. Explain the importance of using a quality security/anti-virus program on the phone.

Online shopping is a boon for many older adults who find it difficult to get out and shop in “brick and mortar” shops and who do not want to be dependent on family or friends to do the shopping for them. Start by talking about how to choose a safe and trusted site for shopping. Help these individuals understand the importance of using credit cards rather than debit cards when shopping online. Explain how to choose a strong password and how to remember it. Go over how to retain a receipt and understand the site’s return policy. Talk about the importance of logging off of the site when finished shopping.

Malware is a simple way for an ID thief to steal information. If a thief is able to install a form of malware known as spyware, that person will be able to monitor all of the online activities on that device. Talk with older adults about the dangers of clicking on links in emails, text messages or on websites. Explain that websites can be spoofed so that it is always best to go directly to a site rather than trusting a link. Show older adults the frequent ads that pop up when using Facebook or other social media. Explain that clicking on these ads could be dangerous. Help the older adult with online searches that will allow them to access that great story about a celebrity or cute cat video from a safe site rather than by a click on a link or ad. By showing older adults alternate ways to access information, you will help them understand that the Internet is not such a dangerous place that they should avoid it or be frightened, but that caution is a good policy.

Scams and Identity Theft

Older adults are more vulnerable than younger adults to certain scam artists who would steal their money and their personal and financial information. While anyone can be scammed, these criminals target older adults more frequently and often more aggressively. Older adults may be more likely than a younger person to believe that someone calling them represents a government agency, is an attorney about to file a law suit, is with a charity, or is calling from a sweepstakes or lottery office. A trick often employed by these scammers is to pose as someone from Medicare just needing to verify personal information, such as social security numbers.

Scam artists are called artists for a reason. They are very adept at flowing with the information provided by the victim to perpetrate the scam. The scammers will always tell their victims exactly what they need to hear to further the scam. If meeting the person on an online dating service for example, the scammer will say he or she has had similar life experiences to the victim. The scammer will use a love of a grandchild or a pet to move the scam along. Whatever the scam, the scammer will artfully morph into whatever the victim needs to hear to believe what is being said and part with money and information.

When preparing older adults for the scammers, it is helpful to provide someone that the older adult could call if he or she receives one of these calls, emails, text messages or letters. Having a professional with whom the older can discuss the contact gives that person more confidence to deal with the scammer appropriately. When a trusted professional assures that this is a scam and you will not be sued or arrested, have not won the lottery and will not lose your Medicare benefits; the older adult will feel safe to cut off contact without providing that personal or financial information.

Identity Theft Protection Programs

There are many programs available that bill themselves as Identity Theft Protection Programs, and a lot of their marketing is targeted to older adults. These programs can be very valuable; however they will not prevent all forms ID Theft, so can be misleading. Most of these programs are actually credit monitoring programs. They do effectively stop ID thieves from opening new credit in a customer’s name. However, if the ID thief has gotten far enough to try opening credit accounts, the person’s ID has already been compromised. This leaves the victim open to other forms of ID Theft such as medical ID Theft, benefits ID Theft, criminal ID Theft and more. Some of the ID Theft Protection Programs on the market today have resources to protect against these other forms of ID Theft. Programs may look for fraudulent use of a customer’s ID by searching criminal and driving histories, public records, mortgages, even the “Dark Net” (a computer network that requires special software or systems to access and is frequently used for illegal activities). These services will often cost more than the usual monthly fee.

When discussing Identity Theft Protection Programs with older adults, it is important to talk about being a savvy consumer. Before committing to a program, a consumer should do some research about the programs and weigh the benefits and costs of each program. Advise older adults to read the fine print in any contract, and to understand the terms, especially any reference to cancellation fees. It is also important to understand what the program will do for a customer should an ID Theft occur. There are many options and it can get quite confusing. Assisting an older adult in deciding if this type of program is a good fit for their needs and resources is the first step. Helping with research and options is a great way to empower an older adult in making a quality decision.

Preventing Identity Theft does not have to be difficult. It just takes some diligence and a good prevention plan. As someone who works with older adults, you may be in a unique position to help raise awareness and support older adults in making safe and healthy decisions. For more information on Identity Theft and Fraud, or for assistance with reporting and responding to these crimes, please contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

By Hazel Heckers

Colorado Bureau of Investigation -
Identity Theft, Fraud & Cyber Crimes Investigations Unit

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Finding The Best Medical Alert System

Medical Alert System Review For Seniors
Due to the fact that most senior citizens prefer to spend their golden years in their own home, respecting these wishes can be hard when the risks are so real. Did you know that one out of every three adults age 65 or older will have a serious fall each year? In order for a senior to remain independent, they need a reliable device that can connect them with help quickly. Family members have peace of mind knowing their loved one is protected by a service that is both personable and attentive.

Getting Help With The Push of A Button

Remember the old television commercial from Life Call that started with "I've fallen and I cannot get up?" That was groundbreaking technology for its day, but since that time, things have come a long way. The very core of their design though is still alive and well today. By simply pressing a button, help can be on its way. Using the exact same technology, the team at researched 69 medical alert services and found four contenders who can provide the best at-home care. They are Life Station, Bay Alarm Medical, Mobile Help, Acadian on Call, and Medical Guardian. Tests were conducted on each service provider using criteria, such as response rate, employees, and other features were measured. Some have great features that connect you straight with a 911 operator using a long-distance walkie-talkie. This allows an extra layer of security, especially for those who are out and about at night. The testing was thorough and the results uncanny.

Cutting Companies Based on Specific Criteria

If this is your first time buying a unit of this type, you want to try to keep things simple. Seniors usually do not like a bunch of buttons and features that require their hands to work overtime. To come up with the best options for seniors, services had to have nationwide coverage. Any device that also required a full home security system, which was an additional cost, was also cut from the running. The purchasing process was important. Seniors want a simple product at a great price. Customer service is another big part of the puzzle. If a provider cannot respond to emails or phone calls, how can they monitor and take care of their customers? The team weeded through confusing terms and hidden fees to find the best for you.

Life Station

Life Station is a good company and they are one of the leading brands on the market. Their machines are landline based only. They do not have mobile-enabled devices, which is weird in our technologically advanced world. The reps will do everything they can to get you into limited promotional and try to upsell you to a higher priced unit. This company has good protection services, but the range is only 500 feet. This can be limiting even in a house where the square footage is larger. The do have reasonably priced units and they are dependable, so those who want something that is more standard without all the bells and whistles may look to them for assistance. They have been in business since 1977, and they offer their customers the freedom of no long term contracts. It is a $29.95 base fee with discounts available. You can cancel anytime, just as long as you provide a 30-day notice.

Bay Alarm Medical

Like other companies, there is no contract with Bay Alarm Medical. They have prices starting at just $25 a month for a high-quality device. Those who want extra services can add CO and Fire/Smoke protection for an additional cost. This company does not have an in-house monitoring system, however, they use call centers with knowledgeable reps. In fact, their customers service rivals those who have their own monitoring system. They have clear pricing, great video demonstrations on their site, and set up is simple. Though the machine does not have the best looks, it is sufficient and functional. It can be hooked to a mobile or landline for convenience.

Mobile Help

Mobile Help is probably one of the most technologically advanced companies for this type of service. They do not have their own monitoring services; rather, they piggyback onto Acadian's. They have great upgrade options and services like automatic fall detection. The buttons can be wall mounted for ease of use. They have a necklace and a watch option made to look just like jewelry for those who want their monitoring to be incognito. One drawback with this service is that they only use AT&T's cellular service, which can be difficult in some areas. They do not use a landline. The monthly monitoring cost is $39.95.

Medical Guardian

When you have Florence Henderson as your spokesperson, you know you are a big hitter. The average response time to their customers is 49 seconds, which is pretty impressive by any standards. They do not have a free trial period like most, but they will lock you into a 90-day contract. They will give discounts to members who pay for their fees annually or quarterly. The company has only been around since 2005. They have great options that start at $29.95 a month or $89.95 billed on quarterly. Users can choose between a necklace pendant or a bracelet. Though they have mobile phone service, it works best with a land line.

Acadian On Call

Acadian is one of the leaders in this industry, without a doubt. They have their own monitoring system, as well as being affiliated with a smoke alarm association. Their pricing is competitive and they give immediate attention to their customers. In most cases, you are likely to talk to an EMT or a nurse when you call. There is no requirement that requires them to have trained professional answering calls, but it just shows that they go above and beyond the call of service. Their plans start at just $29.95.

Why The Market Has Exploded

Between 2012 and 2050, the population of seniors over 60 years of age is expected to double. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of that population will live in their own home. The medical alert industry is becoming more popular, as the need for their services is demanded. For some, having these devices is the difference between being in their own home or an assisted living facility. Call and get information before making a decision. Plans and offerings change frequently.

"Acadian On Call® Medical Alert System – Full Review,"
"The Best Medical Alert Systems,"
"Bay Alarm Medical Review," Medical Alert Systems Reviews Site
"LifeStation Review," Medical Alert Systems Reviews Site
"Medical Guardian Review," Medical Alert Systems Reviews Site
"Product Review: The MobileHelp Medical Alert System," The Senior List, LLC
Blog posting provided by

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Aging While Being Unsheltered

Homelessness Problem Facing Aging Older Men

Aging should be a transition in life that comes with wisdom, grand kids, and an occasional bingo game surrounded by the laughter of family celebrating in your backyard. Yet in the United States alone, it is estimated that in any given year 3.5 million people are experiencing homelessness (Shelton, Taylor, Bonner, & van den Bree, 2009). Homelessness is a depressing condition that adversely affects positive aging. With a deeper understanding of barriers that negatively influence aging, older males can positively disrupt aging.

Homeless individuals can either be sheltered (frequents homeless shelters) or unsheltered (living outside in cars, parks or abandoned buildings). The unsheltered face more extreme negative consequences than homeless that use sheltering facilities. The unsheltered have higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse, more severe physical ailments, higher incarceration, hospitalization and suicide rates (Irwin, LaGory, Ritchey, & Fitzpatrick, 2008).

Additionally, the difficulties and complexities of being an older unsheltered male are slowly increasing due to personal barriers, bureaucratic red tape, complicated family relationships, and a desire to help their families due to pride. According to Culhane, Metraux, Byrne, Stino, and Bainbridge (2013), the 2000 United States Census Bureau enumeration data illustrated that middle aged baby boomers “born between 1959-1961 faced a higher risk of becoming homeless than other age groups” (p. 1). As such, these homeless individuals have different needs and will require specific types of mental and health care compared to younger homeless individuals. Culhane et al. (2013) furthered that in light of the poorer health of homeless individuals, coupled with the aging process, demands will increase for health care services, nursing homes, other long term care facilities, and the social welfare system. These are areas of concern that need to be addressed.

For older males, homeless organizations can retool their outreach efforts to better serve this population and decrease the number of unsheltered men by implementing alternative types of shelters for working homeless, those with disabilities, and reformed felons. These efforts can lower the number of services needed to adequately care for aging unsheltered males.

In my community outreach work, I have consistently increased awareness about vulnerable populations and individuals who are economically disadvantaged. As an advocate, I seek to challenge the misconceptions regarding society’s perception about poverty and homelessness. As a Psychologist, I believe in bringing awareness to the aging homeless population which is silently stigmatized in various cultures through lack of education, inadequate funding, and minimal resources. I implore members of society to recognize that there is no difference between the man who is employed and the unsheltered man. At the most fundamental level, they both have basic needs, desire to utilize their skills and provide for their families. The only difference is one man lacks the resources to meet his needs. Philipps (2012) provided an explanation of how the inability to perform the role determined for men (i.e. breadwinner) can have devastating effects on the emotional wellbeing and esteem of homeless men. It was noted that “the inability to live up to these standards can cause psychological distress” (p. 11). Additionally, desolation about their masculinity may occur because these homeless men are unable to take care of their families and loved ones. Given historical gender roles and expectations, it is not surprising that the inability of men to provide for their families can lead them to believe that being unsheltered is a better option, than being taken care of by their families.

Based on research I have conducted, some recommendations to address the difficulties that older unsheltered men face are:

  • Streamlining the process of securing necessary resources such as, obtaining a birth certificate, housing or shelter, food stamps, identification, food, and social security benefits.

  • Better job opportunities that enable older men to utilize their skills and talents despite lacking the education.

  • More opportunities for unsheltered men to further their education.

  • Support networks for unsheltered men who don’t have supportive relatives or living relatives.

  • Support groups for unsheltered men who want to provide for their families, but due to pride they are unable to recognize alternative options for helping such as, aiding with grandchildren, supporting their children emotionally, and being a present participant in their family members’ lives.

  • More effective methods of assisting unsheltered felons with convictions that date 10 years or older.

According to the Homeless Resource Network (2009), most people who are experiencing homelessness have a desire to work and 44% worked for some wage within 2009. Given this statistic it is evident that higher wages and more suitable employment opportunities are necessary to level the playing field. Other studies have shown that with the proper resources in place that aging unsheltered men can thrive successfully. Adapting to living unsheltered is never the goal, but rather a way of survival. Through educating ourselves about societal misconceptions, we can truly eradicate homelessness.

Author - Dr. Ikeranda C. Smith

- By Dr. Ikeranda C. Smith

More information on Dr. Ikeranda C. Smith's research can be found here.


Culhane, D. P., Metraux, S., Byrne, T., Stino, M., & Bainbridge, J. (2013). The age structure of contemporary homelessness: evidence and implications for public policy. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 13(1), 228-244.

Homeless Resource Network. Retrieved June 1, 2016 from

Irwin, J., LaGory, M., Ritchey, F., & Fitzpatrick, K. (2008). Social assets and mental distress among the homeless: Exploring the roles of social support and other forms of social capital on depression. Social Science & Medicine, 67(12), 1935-1943. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.008

Philipps, K. (2012). "Homelessness: Causes, Culture and Community Development as a Solution" (2012).Pell Scholars and Senior Theses.

Shelton, K., Taylor, P., Bonner, A., & van den Bree, M. (2009). Risk factors for homelessness: Evidence from a population-based study. Psychiatric Services, 60(4), 465-472. doi: 10.1176/

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Famous & 65

Look Who’s Turning 65

June 3—Jill Biden

Jill Biden photo credit

The wife of Vice President Joe Biden, Jill Biden has been a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College since 2009. She is thought to be the first second lady to hold a paying job while her husband is vice president. She married Joe Biden in 1977 and became stepmother to his two young sons, Beau and Hunter, whose mother (Joe’s first wife) and baby sister died in a car accident. Joe and Jill Biden have a daughter, Ashley, born in 1981.

After receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware, Biden taught English and reading in high schools for 13 years, and also taught adolescents with emotional disabilities at a psychiatric hospital. From 1993 to 2008, she was an English and writing instructor at Delaware Technical & Community College. Biden is founder and president of the Biden Breast Health Initiative, a nonprofit organization begun in 1993 that provides educational breast-health awareness programs free of charge to schools and other groups in Delaware. In 2007, she helped found Book Buddies, which provides books for low-income children. Biden has been active in Delaware Boots on the Ground, an organization that supports military families.

June 5—Susan "Suze" Orman

Photo by David Shankbone

The author, financial adviser, motivational speaker and television host became interested in financial matters when she lost her first investment through a representative at Merrill Lynch. Suze Orman then went on to train as an account executive for Merrill Lynch, after which she successfully sued the investment firm for her loss of $50,000. In 1983, she became the vice president of investments at Prudential Bache Securities and left in 1987 to start the Suze Orman Financial Group. Between 1997 and 1999, Orman published three books: The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom (1997), You Earned it Don't Lose it (1999) and The Courage to be Rich (1999). Other books by Orman include The Road to Wealth (2001) and The Laws of Money, the Lessons of Life (2003).

In 2002, The Suze Orman Show began airing on CNBC and ended in March 2015. In January 2012, Orman's 6-episode TV series America's Money Class with Suze Orman premiered on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. She writes a financial advice column for O The Oprah Magazine and has contributed to other publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Your Business at Home Magazine. She is developing a new series, Suze Orman's Money Wars, for Warner Bros. Telepictures Productions.

June 13—Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas at Peabody Awards

The actor is best known for his leading role as budding author John-Boy Walton in the popular 1970s CBS drama The Waltons, where he won one Emmy Award and received nominations for another Emmy Award and two Golden Globe Awards. The son of ballet dancers, Richard Thomas got his start at age 7 when he made his Broadway debut in Sunrise at Campobello (1958) playing John Roosevelt, son of future U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His television career started in 1959, in a presentation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. He then began acting in daytime TV, appearing in soap operas such as The Edge of Night and As the World Turns. Thomas received his first major film roles, appearing in Winning (1969) with Paul Newman and Last Summer (1969). In 1971, he starred in the Universal Pictures Hal Wallis Production Red Sky at Morning, which was a financial failure.

In The Waltons, Thomas played the role of John-Boy continuously until March 17, 1977 and returned to the role in three Waltons TV movies, from 1993 to 1997. In 1972, he played against type as a murderer and rapist in You’ll Like My Mother opposite Patty Duke. He played the lead roles in the 1974 TV movie The Red Badge of Courage and in the 1979 TV movie All Quiet on the Western Front. In 1980, Thomas made his first Broadway appearance in more than 12 years in Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July and starred or appeared in several plays after that, including the title role in a stage production of Richard II. In 1990, he played the adult version of main character Bill in the TV adaptation of Stephen King's novel It. Thomas has provided voiceovers in Mercedes-Benz, BB&T and Aleve commercials. He has a supporting role in the FX Network Cold War drama The Americans, as an FBI counterintelligence supervisor.

June 16—Roberto Durán Samaniego

Roberto Duran preparing to fight Vinny Pazienza in Vegas 1994

The Panamanian former professional boxer is widely regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. A versatile brawler in the ring, Roberto Durán was nicknamed "Manos de Piedra" ("hands of stone") during his career. He began sparring with experienced boxers when he was only 8 years old and made his professional debut in 1968 at the age of 16. In 2002, Durán was voted by The Ring magazine as the fifth greatest fighter of the last 80 years, while boxing historian Bert Sugar rated him as the eighth greatest fighter of all time. The Associated Press voted him as the No. 1 lightweight of the 20th century. Durán held world titles in four different weight classes: lightweight (1972–79), welterweight (1980), light middleweight (1983–84) and middleweight (1989). He was the second boxer to have fought over a span of five decades. He is most infamous for abruptly forfeiting his welterweight title in the middle of his 1980 rematch with challenger Sugar Ray Leonard.

Durán retired in January 2002 at age 50 (having previously retired in 1998) following a bad car crash in October 2001, with a professional record of 120 fights and 104 wins with 69 knockouts. In 2006, Durán was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in Riverside, Calif., and, in 2007, into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. Today, he is the brand ambassador for Panama Blue, Panama’s premium bottled water. Durán is also a licensed ultralight aircraft pilot in Panama.

Source: Wikipedia

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

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

You’re Never Too Old to Play

Image Courtesy of BBC

Playgrounds aren’t just for kids anymore.
New designs cater to older adults who want to increase their flexibility and balance—as well as have fun.

Playgrounds for older adults are starting to mushroom in cities nationwide, including Miami, Kansas City, Los Angeles and New York City, according to Next Avenue. The latest fitness trend, popular in Europe, features low-impact exercise equipment designed to promote flexibility, balance, speed and coordination.

Adult playgrounds expose us to a new experience, and challenging older brains in such a way can help fight dementia. Plus, playgrounds are fun and provide a chance to interact (play) with others, including children who may have a nearby playground of their own.

Just take it slow on the slide.


"A Fun, New Exercise Trend for People Over 50,” April 4, 2016, Next Avenue.

Blog posting provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, June 6, 2016

Buying a New Car Starts on the Internet

Buying a New Car Starts on the Internet

Before you even step into a car dealer’s showroom, you can research, find the vehicle you want and seal the price—all online.

Getting advice for buying a new car can make you feel like you’re about to enter a minefield. There appears to be a dozen ways a car dealership can rush you into a decision or get you to spend more than you intended. Consumers routinely list buying a car as the worst shopping experience imaginable, Forbes recently reported.

So how do you navigate this minefield and get the car you want at a price you can afford? First, by doing your research on the Internet and then working with websites that can help you choose and find the car you desire. By the time you enter the dealership, you’ll have at least evened the playing field.

Start with Research

First, go online to check out different cars, models and options. Examine their safety and other ratings, find reviews and get an idea of prices. (See sidebar for what features to research.) Several companies are known for their expertise.

Kelley Blue Book. This standard guide since 1926 uses actual transactions to determine car prices for both new and used cars. KBB also lists the car manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and dealer invoice. The MSRP is the price the manufacturer recommends to the retailer, and the dealer invoice is the amount an auto dealership pays the manufacturer for a vehicle it puts on its lot. These two pieces of information can help you better negotiate the price with the car dealer. The site has reviews from both experts and consumers.

J.D. Power. The company has been providing consumer ratings since 1968. Its Power Circle Ratings are based on independent and unbiased feedback from a representative sample of verified product and service owners. On J.D. Power’s website, you can find ratings for a car’s mechanical, feature, accessory, body and interior quality, as well as for performance, creature comforts and style. There's also a score for the dealership experience.

Consumer Reports. Known for its independent reviews and advice about all types of products and services, the magazine and website offer extensive advice on purchasing a car. Read about how to choose a type of car, avoid “car-buying surprises,” evaluate and negotiate with the dealership, finance the purchase and finalize the deal. If you subscribe to Consumer Reports, you also have access to its car reviews.

Where to Go for Help

While there are some people who might thrive on wheeling and dealing, many car buyers would rather avoid the whole process. There are organizations and businesses, some not necessarily dedicated to car buying, which you’ve dealt with over the years and have come to trust for various reasons. These are just a few.

Features and Functions to Research

When researching a new (or used) car, what should you look for? Kelley Blue Book offers these suggestions.

"Passive safety" precautions include airbags, energy-absorbing crumple zones and mechanisms that can detect an oncoming crash and tighten the seat belt (pretensioners). Other more active safety features include antilock brakes and traction and stability control. If you drive in bad weather or on slippery surfaces, consider getting all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, which can make driving safer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Government 5-Star Safety Ratings provides the relative performance levels of various cars and trucks in crashes, and an indication of how your prospective vehicle's safety features compare to those of others.

Using research tools like J.D. Power Circle Ratings, check out how your desired car rates in mechanical, feature and accessory quality as well as the quality of the body and interior. Make sure to research ratings for performance, creature comforts and style.

Consumer Reports. In addition to offering its own guide to purchasing a vehicle, Consumer Reports has a car-buying service. Using its Build & Buy Car Buying Service (developed with the car-shopping website TrueCar), you can get current price information about the make and model of the vehicle you want. In fact, online you can configure the car of your dreams, choosing the trim, color and options you want. From this information, you’ll get an estimated dealer price from Consumer Reports’ prescreened dealers in your area, plus a certificate guaranteeing you a certain amount of savings from the MSRP on the model you’ve chosen, if it’s in stock.

AARP. On AARP’s website, once you select the car model you’re looking for, you can choose the features, including sedan or hatchback, color, the desired mpg, and your price range. The service recommends dealers in your area, which will search local inventory for the car you want and provide pricing on available vehicles that match your preferences. You can then take the price, which is often below MSRP, to the dealer you choose. Be forewarned, though: To use AARP’s service, you must provide your email address and phone number (unlike Consumer Reports, which hides your identity), so be prepared to have dealers contacting you within five minutes of filling out AARP’s forms.

AAA. The national car club has its own Auto Buying Program for both a new or pre-owned vehicle. It’s similar to other organizations’ programs, but different regions of the country have slightly different programs. Consult with your local club for details.

Costco. Similar to the other programs, the warehouse shopping club uses selected dealers who meet the company’s requirements for value. Costco gives members the resources to “build” and research your car online and prearranges low costs with dealers. The company claims that it continuously monitors its dealers to ensure competitive pricing and good service.

United Services Automobile Association. Once you’ve researched and compared prices, you can choose up to three certified dealers for test drives. When you’re ready to make a decision, present the dealer with your USAA Savings Certificate that guarantees the price for the car you've chosen.

Car-Shopping Websites

You can also deal directly with an auto website, which provides reviews and advice and connects you with dealers. FoxNews chose several of what it considered the best, including: This site won the highest ranking in J.D. Power's 2014 survey of car-shopping sites based on content, ease of navigation, appearance and speed. Find reviews and shop for new and used cars in your area. After you choose a car, view the average price paid and get an estimated price from Edmunds. If you send the dealer your contact information, you can get a locked-in price.

TrueCar. Like Edmunds, this site monitors local car sales to determine the average price of a car in your zip code. When you find a car and dealer you like, you can lock in the price with a certificate you take to the dealer.

Carvana. Bypassing car dealerships, Carvana has its own inventory of inspected cars for sale. If you live in its service area (in the South), you never have to leave your house. You can do all the car shopping, dealing and financing online, and then wait for Carvana to deliver the car you chose to your house. If you don’t live in its service area, Carvana will pay for your plane ticket (up to $200) to fly and pick it up. Carvana estimates that cutting out the dealers saves buyers $1,500 per car. If you drive the car around for seven days and decide you don’t like it, you get your money back.

CarMax. The United States' largest used-car retailer offers no-haggle pricing on its vehicles, meaning the price is the same online as it is on the lot. All of their used vehicles come with a free vehicle history, 5-Day Money-Back Guarantee, and 30-Day Limited Warranty (60-Day CT, MN, and RI; 90-Day in MA, NY, NJ).


How to Buy a New Car,” Consumer Reports.

Fix This: Why Is It So Painful To Buy A New Car?,” May 11, 2016, Forbes.

Best car-buying websites,” June 30, 2014, Fox News.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Let Your Fingers Do the Texting

Texting Tips for Seniors

Using your cellphone, you can communicate easily and quickly, especially with shorthand words and emojis.

You’ve probably figured out that if you want to communicate with your children, grandchildren or anyone younger than 50, you’ll need to learn how to text. That entails learning the most common abbreviations, so you don’t have to spell out “see you later” or “in my opinion.” And emojis, those characters such as smiley faces or hearts, can be a whole language in themselves.

Start With the Basics

Smartphones make it easy to text, although all cellphones have the capability. Look for the “Messages” icon on your phone, which will be different depending on whether it’s an Apple or Android device. From this icon, type in the contact name or phone number of the person you want to text. You can also create a new message from your contacts list by choosing the message icon. You can add more than one person to the “To” field and create a group text.

As soon as you put your cursor in the message field, the keyboard will open, so you can start typing. (Being all thumbs in this context is a plus. Texting with two thumbs is a skill some of us in the older generation don’t easily learn). After you type the message, hit “Send.” As you text back and forth with an individual or group, your conversation becomes an ongoing “thread,” which your phone will save until you delete it.

Some smartphones (such as iPhones) will let you speak into the microphone and produce written words, which will somewhat resemble what you said. So make sure you check the text for any embarrassing errors before hitting send.

You can also attach photos and videos to your text message. Depending on the kind of phone you have, you should find a menu that lets you attach several media, including audio clips, contact information for a third party or your location.

Be aware that your cellphone provider may limit the size of media you can send. Also, it can be easier to send a multimedia message by going to the source, such as a picture or video stored on your phone. You can use the share command and choose the path to share your photo or video, such as Facebook, email or text.

BTW, It’s More Than Words

Texting has delivered a whole new way of communicating, using abbreviations and emojis. It’s not easy typing complete words or phrases, let alone sentences, on a tiny keyboard. And in this fast-paced world, most people don’t want to take the time. Hence, certain well-worn phrases have become shortened to well-known abbreviations such as:

  • BTW - By the way

  • OMG - Oh my god

  • GR8 - Great

  • FWIW - For what it’s worth

  • LOL – Laugh out loud

  • NP – No problem

  • JK – Just kidding

  • TMI – Too much information

  • TTYL – Talk to you later

  • WYWH – Wish you were here

A guide on Webopedida lists more than 1,450 text-message and online-chat abbreviations to help you translate today's texting lingo. Netlingo provides the “Top 50 Most Popular Text Terms” to get you started.

Emojis originated in Japan in the late 1990s but have become increasingly popular worldwide since Apple included them on its iPhone. At last count, 800 of these ideograms exist, encompassing everything from fruit and animals to facial expressions and food. Some people compose texts solely of emojis.

Most smartphones come with a pre-installed emoji keyboard, but you can also get apps with additional emoji options. If you have an Android phone, you can get free emoji apps from the Google Play Store (found as an app on your phone). Make sure the emoji app is compatible with your phone.


How to Text,” wikiHow.

How to Get Emoji on Android,” wikiHow.

Emoji,” Wikipedia.

Text Messaging and Online Chat Abbreviations,” Webopedia.

How to Text Message,” Feb. 5, 2013, AARP.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Heartburn Can Be More Serious Than Discomfort

heartburn in older adults

Older adults are especially susceptible to extreme forms of acid reflux, which can harm the esophagus and cause problems eating and drinking.

More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, and some studies have suggested that more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms, also known as acid reflux, each day (American College of Gastroenterology). Because of physiological changes, plus prescription medications that affect the GI tract, older adults are more likely to suffer from a more serious form of acid reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

So, there’s a good reason why your bathroom shelves are loaded with bottles of Pepcid, Gaviscon, Tagamet and Maalox, and why you’ve had to stop eating some of your favorite dishes, like burritos and spaghetti with marina sauce.

How It Starts

You experience heartburn as a burning pain in your chest, just behind your breastbone (and not actually in your heart), often after you eat or at night. The pain is usually worse when you are lying down or bending over. It’s known as acid reflux because stomach acid backs up into your esophagus (the tube that transports food from your mouth to your stomach). In a healthy esophagus, after food and liquid flow into your stomach, the esophageal muscle tightens. But if it’s weak, a trait common in older adults, the acid can come back up and cause a burning sensation.

On its own, acid reflux can cause extreme discomfort, which over-the-counter medications can often alleviate. Perhaps surprisingly, stomach acid can corrode the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities. However, acid reflux can become more serious and turn into GERD. As such, it can irritate the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis), which can lead to painful swallowing. GERD can also cause ulcers and scar the esophageal lining, which narrows the esophagus and makes it more difficult to eat and drink. In a few cases, the disease can even increase your chances of cancer. To figure out if you have more than heartburn, see the sidebar, “Determine if you have GERD.”

Causes and Triggers

Various factors can trigger heartburn. One is a hiatal hernia, which is when the muscle wall separating your stomach from your chest moves up, allowing acid to enter your esophagus. Also, many older adults take blood pressure medications which can cause heartburn. Numerous lifestyle practices also contribute, including:

  • Smoking. This habit inhibits the production of saliva, which neutralizes acid’s effects. Tobacco may also stimulate stomach acid production and relax the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, permitting acid to flow up.

  • Consuming certain foods and beverages. Chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy or spicy foods, tomato products, citrus juices and alcohol can all create acid. Avoid the nightcap before going to bed.

  • Being overweight. Excess pounds put pressure on your abdomen, pushing up your stomach and causing acid to back up into your esophagus.

  • Eating before sleeping. Because stomach acid helps break down food for digestion, you need two to three hours for acid levels to decrease before lying down. You might want to think about elevating the head of your bed if your heartburn occurs during the night. Simply raising the head with a few blocks or, if you prefer, sleeping with more pillows to keep the head up can be helpful.

  • Stress. Anxiety can worsen heartburn symptoms.

Determine if you have GERD

Your heartburn might be more serious than you think. If you agree with two or more of the questions in the quiz below, you may have GERD. To know for sure, see your doctor or a gastrointestinal specialist.

  1. Do you frequently have one or more of the following:
    1. an uncomfortable feeling behind the breastbone that seems to be moving upward from the stomach?
    2. a burning sensation in the back of your throat?
    3. a bitter acid taste in your mouth?

  2. Do you often experience these problems after meals?

  3. Do you experience heartburn or acid indigestion two or more times per week?

  4. Do you find that antacids only provide temporary relief from your symptoms?

  5. Are you taking prescription medication to treat heartburn, but still having symptoms?

From the American College of Gastroenterology

Medications That Help

Many over-the-counter medications can help relieve acid reflux. The options include:

  • Antacids. By helping to neutralize stomach acid, antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta, Tums and Gaviscon may provide quick relief. However, they can't heal an esophagus damaged by stomach acid. Frequent antacid use can also cause diarrhea or constipation.

  • H2-receptor antagonists. Also known as H2 blockers, these medications actually reduce the production of stomach acid, therefore relieving heartburn for a longer period of time than antacids. However, they don’t act as quickly, which is why many people grab an antacid first. H2 blockers, which include Pepcid, Tagamet and Zantac, can help heal mild to moderate esophagitis.

  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). For more severe cases, doctors will prescribe PPIs, which include Prevacid and Prilosec. PPIs have been found to reduce more acid and heal esophagitis more rapidly than H2 blockers. However, several recent studies have shown links between PPIs and some serious illnesses.

Problems with PPIs

One study reviewed data from 16 million clinical documents and found that people who take PPIs have a greater risk of suffering a heart attack, regardless of whether they have a history of cardiovascular disease (Pharmaceutical Journal).

Another study linked PPI to increased risk of developing kidney disease (Medline Plus). The findings are based on medical records from over 173,000 VA patients who were prescribed a PPI and more than 20,000 other patients given H2 blockers. Over five years, 15 percent of PPI users were diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, versus 11 percent of those on H2-blockers. After the researchers weighed other factors, PPI users still had a 28 percent greater risk.

PPIs work by blocking production of stomach acid, which helps digest food and acts as a barrier against certain pathogens. Without the stomach acid, people are more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies and infections, according to one researcher, because you’re not getting the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients you need. Nutrient deficiencies and bone-density loss is especially a concern for older adults.

Another recent study raises concerns about PPIs causing dementia. The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn studied 73,679 people ages 75 and older. The researchers found regular PPI users had at least a 44 percent increased risk of dementia compared with those not using the drugs (NPR). Although it’s not clear how PPIs might increase the risk for dementia, other researchers studying mice have reported that PPIs seem to increase levels of beta-amyloid, a damaging protein that accumulates in dementia patients’ brains.

None of these studies prove that PPIs are directly to blame for these problems, only that there is a link. However, medical experts advise that patients should only take them when their acid reflux or GERD is severe. Many prescribers are having their patients taper off of them periodically or switch to other H2 blockers or antacids. Instead of relying only on drugs, people with acid reflux/GERD should consider diet and lifestyle changes, such as eating less spicy foods and losing weight, experts advise. To relieve the discomfort of acid reflux, you can also raise the head of your bed.


"Heartburn,” Mayo Clinic.

Heartburn/GERD Overview,” WebMD.

Acid Reflux,” American College of Gastroenterology.

Senior GERD: Symptoms & Care,” May 6, 2015, A Place for Mom.

Aging and Digestive Health,” WebMD.

Common Heartburn Drugs Linked to Kidney Disease in Study,” April 14, 2016, Medline Plus.

Popular Heartburn Pills Can Be Hard To Stop, and May Be Risky,” Feb. 15, 2016, NPR.

Proton pump inhibitors are associated with increased risk of heart attack,” June 15, 2015, The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Popular heartburn drugs linked to risk of dementia, “ Feb. 15, 2016, CBS News

Blog posting provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Use Your DNA to Find Your Ancestry

Family DNA to Find Your Ancestry

Commercial websites make it easy to discover your ethnic roots, common ancestors and family migration routes, and connect with relatives.

John received an online message from a fellow AncestryDNA website user who turned out to be the second cousin once removed from his father. The cousin told him about an 1860 census for the family, and John and his family were able to discover other family members tracing back to a family in France.

Two women who were adoptees used 23andMe, another genetic DNA website, to discover their genetic past. After Winnie took the DNA genealogy test, she was matched with a genetic relative who turned out to be her half nephew. Additional testing confirmed that his mother was Winnie's half sister, and Winnie found herself with a new family. As an adoptee, Megan didn't know anything about her biological parents or family history. Although she had assumed she was Hispanic, the reports of her DNA testing showed she is part Irish, part Scandinavian and part African, with some Native American ancestry as well.

Blaine Betteringer, of the Genetic Genealogist, was able to find a second cousin, three times removed and still living, who shared stories about their common ancestors, a family of Irish immigrants, and particularly about Blaine’s grandfather’s generation’s 11 children. “Every one of these connections enriches our understanding of the past, and helps keep alive ancestors that live on only in their memories,” says Betteringer.

Reasons to Take the Test

In an effort to scientifically determine their ancestry, millions of people around the world have taken a genetic DNA test. The results of the test can be used to:

  • Find out if others with the same surname share a common ancestor.

  • Provide clues about your ethnic origin.

  • Find your historic country of origin.

  • Discover relatives you didn’t know existed.

  • Prove or disprove your family-tree research.

  • Show the migration routes of your paternal ancestors.

  • Find out to which of over 200 populations you are genetically most similar.

  • Discover what proportions of your ancestry come from the seven continental level groups, including African, Asian, European or Native American descent.

The more people who take these tests and contribute their results to a larger database, the more family connections will be possible.

Three Genetic Markers

Most genetic DNA testing companies use a swab from your cheek that provides a sampling of your DNA, your unique genetic fingerprint. There are three genetic markers on your DNA that can provide clues to your ancestry: one from your father, another from your mother and a third from both sides of the family (from familysearch).

Y-DNA testing. Information stored in the Y chromosome (Ycs) is passed from father to son over centuries. Analysis of this genetic information can help determine whether you share a common paternal ancestor with another person alive today. Based on the number of genetic markers shared on the Ycs with another person, you can also estimate how many generations in the past your common paternal ancestor lived.

MTDNA testing. We inherit mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) exclusively from our mothers, and this marker follows an unbroken maternal line. It can help in verifying the existence of a common maternal ancestor or in studying the ancient origins of our maternal line. MtDNA lineages can be grouped together in a large mtDNA tree. Each branch of this tree may have a specific geographic distribution that might help someone locate their maternal line’s country or region of origin.

Autosomal DNA testing. Autosomal DNA does not follow a clear and straight path of inheritance, like the Ycs and mtDNA. However, this information is helpful in identifying cousins within the last five generations or the ethnic origins of your family tree.

Three Main Testing Services

Because different people test with different companies, many of which maintain their own databases, you will achieve the greatest chance of useful matches by either being tested by or sharing your DNA results with as many companies as possible.

Other Resources

Besides the three commercial websites that provide easy access to information about your DNA, there are free sites that offer lots of information about ancestry and DNA.

International Society of Genetic Genealogists. Founded in 2005, the society’s mission is to educate about genetic genealogy and to offer a network for genealogists. It offers resources for beginners as well as a wiki for others to contribute information.

World Families Network. Check out this website to determine if a DNA project is underway for your surname. It provides free websites to display test results, family pedigrees and shared information, as well as forums for family discussions.

Your Genetic Genealogist. This site is intended for the non-scientist and includes recommendations for DNA testing services and links to articles on the topic. The author is an independent professional genetic genealogist and television consultant currently working as the adviser for the PBS television series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

FamilySearch. This Mormon site offers basic information about genetic DNA testing, as well as many links to other resources.

Three testing services dominate the field:

AncestryDNA. A part of, one of the original genealogy websites, AncestryDNA claims to have the world’s largest consumer DNA database, with more than 1.5 million people. You can supplement your DNA tests with’s billions of historical records and millions of family trees. The cost is $99 for a DNA test kit, which looks only for autosomal markers.

Family Tree DNA. Unlike AncestryDNA, Family Tree does all three tests. The Y-DNA lets you join a surname project, and when paired with the mtDNA test, the results help you find recent and distant relatives on your father’s and mother’s side, confirm paternal and maternal relationships, and trace paternal and maternal ancestors’ migration routes. The tests also provide a list of people in its database who share a common direct ancestor with you: for paternal, going back 25 generations, or maternal, within 52 generations.

Its autosomal test, Family Finder, helps you find and connect with recent relatives on both sides of the family within five generations and can also give you a breakdown of your ethnic makeup by percentage.

Family Tree provides the names and emails of matches, an estimate of how closely related they are to you and any genealogical information they have uploaded. Sharing this information is optional.

Costs for Family Tree range from $99 to $350, depending on the test and its depth.

23 and Me. 23 and Me claims to be the “only genetic service available directly to you that includes reports that meet FDA standards.” Unlike the other two services, it also tests for your health, so you can find out if you have a marker that will pass on a genetic trait to your children. To analyze your DNA, 23 and Me uses U.S. laboratories that are certified to meet the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) standards. You’ll receive more than 60 personalized genetic reports, including ancestry (using the autosomal test) and whether you are a “carrier” for a genetic variation for conditions including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. Wellness reports tell you how your DNA relates to your caffeine consumption, lactose digestion and your muscle type. Cost for its test is $199.


"What Can DNA Testing do to Help You Find Your Ancestors?,” Jan. 13, 2014, FamilySearch Blog

"Tracing Your Ancestry Through DNA,”

"Sorting out the DNA Tests Available for Genealogy,”

"Hiring a DNA Testing Company,” FamilySearch

"Genetic Genealogy,” International Society of Genetic Genealogy

Blog posting provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors