Thursday, January 26, 2017

Top 10 Things to Consider When Downsizing

Top 10 Things to Consider When Downsizing

A move to a new home can be an exciting time — a whole change of scenery, a new type of living arrangement or realization of a life-long dream. If you are thinking about downsizing, here are some issues to consider:

1) Are you comfortable in your current home?

Something has sparked thoughts of moving. If you are no longer feeling safe in your current home, the move may be more urgent. What would make you feel more comfortable, secure and happy? Even if you feel a move is necessary, the experience and end result can be a delightful improvement.

2) Is it financially wise to move?

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. For example, how much money will you have to work with and can you afford a move? Do you have equity in your current home and is it wise to invest considerable money in a new residence? Understanding the dollars and cents is critical.

3) Where will you find your next home?

There are many options - from smaller, senior-focused, single-family homes to townhomes or condominiums to facilities that offer assistance or independent living with extra services. Your unique situation and desires will help define the best choice for you.

4) What do your family members think?

If your family members are concerned about your safety or worried about your future, they may want to be included in your decision.

5) Who will make the decision?

Is it important to be pro-active and maintain control? Or maybe you feel better letting a trusted friend, advisor or family member make the decision without your input. Just be sure it is in your best interest.

6) What about storage for your cherished items?

If downsizing means less space in your new home, you may need to give special items to select family or friends or charity. This can be an emotional and intimidating process, but it needs to be included in the overall equation.

*** Then there are specific real estate considerations: ***

7) What is your preferred location?

Do you want to be close to friends, family and services, and in the same general area or a whole new neighborhood? Moving closer to fun activities, such as outdoor amenities, shopping and entertainment, could be a big benefit to the move.

8) What does "downsizing" mean to you?

Is it a smaller living space, less yard work, fewer bedrooms or formal rooms? Maybe it is less home to be responsible for and maintain so you have more time for relaxation.

9) What do you need for optimal enjoyment?

Think about your daily activities and the rooms where you spend the most time. Those will be the major focus of the floor plan you choose. Design and layout have changed over the years so you may find your next home offers great use of space and convenience.

10) What is your dream?

Let your imagination go. If there is a vision in your head, a home you have visited, a decor or style you have admired, maybe it is time to make it a reality. Now that family duties are not as critical, you can focus on having fun yourself.

Author -  Linda Alexander

- By Linda Alexander

Linda Alexander is a former Certified Public Accountant who has been listing and selling real estate in Colorado since 1993. She now puts her years of expertise to good use, helping seniors and their families as they transition to a smaller home or retirement community, or move out of state to be closer to children. If you have questions or comments, she can be reached at 303.475.3078 or linda.alexanderproperties@gmail.com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Talk About Death

Recently, I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl. When she found out I am the director of prearranged funeral planning at a funeral home that has been caring for the community for four generations she said, “Why would someone work in such a MORBID business?”

Her comment isn’t that unusual, honestly. In my work, I’ve discovered that though our society is steeped in death — school shootings and terrorism in the news, violent movies, tv shows, and video games — when it comes to the more mundane end of life, we don’t want to talk about it.

Talking about death is in bad taste. It’s morbid. It’s taboo. Our approach is never to say “die.”

Instead, we whisper that someone “passed away” or even “passed.” We talk about “losing a loved one” who “fought valiantly but ultimately lost in the fight” against a disease.

It reminds me of how we used to approach sex. A generation or two ago, people used euphemisms to talk about body parts — weewee, peepee, hooha — we've since learned that the cutesy names are not helpful; they make kids think that their body parts are shameful and weird. To help our kids feel in control of their bodies, we must use anatomically correct terms.

Similarly, using euphemisms for death is an attempt to protect ourselves and those around us. Many of us have a lot of anxiety in thinking about our mortality and that of those we love. It fills us with grief, and guilt, and loss. Even though it’s the only universal human experience, we fool ourselves into believing that if we don’t talk about it, it won’t happen.

The euphemisms are an attempt to keep us safe from the reality. But they also reinforce the idea that we can’t or shouldn’t talk about something that is so fundamental to our humanity. Often that leaves us unable to connect in an authentic way. And it leaves us ashamed to talk about something so very important.

There is a bereavement group in Utah, The Sharing Place. It’s dedicated to helping kids deal with the death of their parents. Did you know that 1 in 20 children will experience the death of a parent before they turn 18? When these kids attend the Sharing Place groups, they each share the circumstances of their loved one’s death using direct terminology. “My mom’s heart stopped and she died.” “My dad had an illness called depression; he used a gun to shoot himself in the head and he died.”

Talking helps us process what happened and normalize the experience. It helps us feel part of a community — less isolated and alone. It gives others permission to share their experience too.

I can’t tell you the number of times when someone meets me and finds out what I do that they say, “I have the weirdest question.” Truthfully, it’s almost never a question I haven’t heard many times before. Because we are so afraid to talk about death, we feel like there is something wrong with us for having any question at all.

Dying happens. It’s part of life. It’s often a very sad part of life, but an important one nonetheless. By accepting the fact that our lives are finite, we can live more meaningfully, more purposefully.

Recently I read a book by Dr. Paul Kalinithi, When Breath Becomes Air. He was a neurosurgeon who developed stage IV lung cancer. He wrote about his experience in dealing with dying patients and his own experience in dying. He said, “By engaging in the reality of death, we can more deeply understand and experience Life.”

Talking about the reality of our mortality can help us to be more self-assured and strong. By talking about death and preparing for the reality of it, we can be much more likely to get what we want and need. But it’s not easy to get started.

According to Ellen Goodman, creator of The Conversation Project, “people need a travel guide to take the first steps down an unfamiliar and difficult road.” The organization created a tool to help people start the discussion. It includes topics such as end-of-life care and funeral planning.

However, these cannot be just one-time conversations. They are discussions we need to revisit regularly, as circumstances change.

When my husband and I did our first Will at age 25, both of us were adamant that we not have artificial life support. Twenty years later, a close friend collapsed on the tennis court when his heart stopped. The paramedics were able to revive him and he was put on a ventilator. Though his body was recovering, he’d been without oxygen so long that his brain was not. His Living Will said not to put him on life support at all. His family, however, needed time to process what had happened. Ultimately, the ventilator was removed nine days later and he died.

With that experience, my husband and I revised our advanced directives. We discussed how we would prefer NOT to be on artificial life support. However, we wanted our loved ones to make the final decision on when to remove it if we were ever in a similar situation to our friend. We recognized that what really mattered was not what each of us might want but what the people who loved us might need.

I am a big believer in talking about funerals too. We are so death-averse, we often think that the only thing that matters is getting rid of the body. Cremation has become really popular and so many people tell me, “I don’t need a funeral. When you’re dead, you’re dead.” What they don’t recognize is that the funeral is not really for the dead person, it’s for the people that are left behind. A communal event, a time for people to get together and share their feelings is often incredibly healing. Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, grief researcher describes this ritual as a “symbolic activity that helps us, together with our families and friends, express our deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s most important events.”

When we are told NOT to talk about something — sex, depression, death — we feel shame, embarrassment about it. We need to get better at having these important conversations regularly and from a point of strength. By talking truthfully we can take some of the power out of these issue and feel relief.

And we can use these conversations to get closer to the people we love most.

Author -  Jamie Sarche

- By Jamie Sarche

Jamie Sarche is a writer, speaker, and the Director of Prearranged Funeral Planning at Feldman Mortuary. She helps people put plans in place long before they need them, when they are able to make educated decisions that are not clouded by grief. Her clients feel a sense of peace for taking care of their loved ones even when they will no longer be physically present to do so. Jamie is a TED speaker and an ELI Talks speaker. She is a mom and lives together with her husband and two boys in Denver.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Divorce After 50 Offers Its Own Challenges

Divorce After Age 50

Not only can seniors lose much of their financial assets at a time in life when it may be hard to financially recover, but they can also lose shared connections and memories.

People are often shocked when they hear that a couple who has been married for 20, 30 or 40 years is getting a divorce (like Al and Tipper Gore, who split in 2010 after 40 years of marriage and four children.) The assumption is that if you’ve been together that long, you must have worked out any problems. And yet a study from Bowling Green State University in Ohio in 2014 found that the divorce rate for people 50 and over doubled from 1990 to 2010 and that one in four Americans getting divorced is over 50.

Reasons for Late Divorce

According to AARP, women initiate 60 percent of divorces after age 40. This could reflect the fact that more women are working today and thus have their own income and some independence, as well as a life outside of marriage and family. One therapist opined that women have higher expectations for their emotional life and won’t put up with less. And divorce no longer carries the social stigma it once did.

Readers commenting on an article on “gray divorce” in the Washington Post offered their own opinions:

“As women have become better educated and financially independent, they no longer have to tolerate husbands who don't appreciate them, abuse them, ignore them and try to dominate them.”
“Many men I have known, 50+, married for years, look at their wives, and decide it's time to ‘trade in for a new model.’ The old model gets left with very little.”
“But mostly, I see people who simply don't agree on how they want to live going forward into their senior years. Some want to stay put while their spouse wants to move around a bit. One partner wants to travel, the other doesn't. One partner is sick of cooking and cleaning after 40 years and frankly realizes that being single is the easiest way to get out of most of the drudgery. . . . And more importantly, some couples are simply tired of being tied financially to another person. Having to 'agree' on how and where to spend money can be very draining when there are two different viewpoints on spending it. With joint finances, you never have the freedom to just spend some money the way you would like to.”

Experts provide other reasons:

  • People live longer, so couples in their 50s or 60s may decide they don’t want to spend another 20 years with their current spouse.

  • Many older people are in their second (or third) marriage, and second marriages, no matter what age, have a higher rate of divorce than first marriages.

  • Children are grown and have their own lives, so couples aren’t staying together “for the kids.”

  • Couples who have been together since their early 20s have changed and gone in different directions. Raising children may have been the reason they stayed together, but once children are gone, the couple have nothing in common.

  • After retirement, couples who spent much of their lives at work are suddenly together all day. That can strain any relationship, but especially ones that may have been unraveling before retirement.

Tips for Surviving a Divorce

Karen Covy, a divorce lawyer, mediator and coach, offers tips for surviving a divorce after age 50:

  • Get professional help. Do not try to go through your divorce alone. At this point in your life, you have way more to lose than your average 20-year-old. Not only will you need a lawyer to help you, but you are also going to need a financial adviser and a therapist or divorce coach.

  • Consider alternatives to litigation. Divorce mediation and collaborative divorce can be less costly, more private and less time-consuming than fighting in court.

  • Familiarize yourself with current and projected finances. The way you divide your property in your divorce and what you pay or receive in spousal support may have tax implications that will affect how much money you have available after your divorce.

  • If you are unemployed, underemployed or retired, consider getting a job. If you need to get a degree or training to get a decent job, look for programs that will give you the potential to make the highest income in the shortest amount of time.

Source: “Tips for Surviving a Divorce After 50,” April 27, 2016, Karen Covy


Financial Considerations

A gray divorce brings challenges that you don’t face when younger. A big one is finances. If you’re retired, you can expect to have your nest egg cut in half once you divide property, pensions, IRAs and anything else you own together. At the same time, on less money, you’ll each be supporting your own household instead of sharing expenses. Similarly, you’ll have to split the bills on any debts you owe, such as mortgage, credit cards or car loans. Researchers report that older divorced Americans have only 20 percent as much wealth as older married couples.

For women, this is a bigger issue than for men because women traditionally have made less money than men and live longer. An older generation of women, especially, may have worked part-time or not at all in order to stay home and raise the children. That means they have a smaller pension, 401(k) or IRA, if any, and a smaller Social Security check. However, spouses who have been married for more than 10 years have access to their former spouse’s Social Security payments. In some cases, divorced spouses can get veterans’ benefits.

Other financial concerns include:

  • As we get older, we have less time than a younger person to rebuild our retirement funds. If you’re retired and want to work again, jobs become scarcer as we age.

  • If both spouses are covered by one spouse’s health insurance, a divorce likely means that one spouse will lose health insurance. If he or she gets insurance on their own, this adds to the expense of the divorce.

  • In most marriages, one person usually handles the finances. After a divorce, the other person must quickly learn how to manage their financial accounts.

  • One person will have to move, which means giving up your home, and this can be a wrenching experience if you’ve lived there long. Because your wealth has been cut in half, this likely means one spouse downsizing to a smaller residence.

  • With your wealth cut in half, this means downsizing your life—putting retirement on hold, working more and traveling less.

Emotional Issues

Besides the financial issues a gray divorce engenders, there are the emotional ones, as well. If you’ve been married a long time, you and your spouse have a lot of history together. It will be difficult, to say the least, to not look back with bitterness and sadness on those once shared memories. You’ve seen yourself as part of a couple—and others have too--for so long, it will be hard to conceive of yourself as someone apart and alone. Divorce will mean starting all over. Other hardships include:

  • Breaking up with your spouse, especially if you’ve been together a long time, means losing a web of connections—in-laws, your spouse’s friends and acquaintances and, if you move, long-time neighbors. You may have to build up new networks.

  • Whether or not you and your spouse had an ideal relationship, you had a constant companion to do things with—whether playing pickleball, watching movies together or eating at your favorite restaurant. It will take more effort to find others who enjoy the same things and are as readily available.

  • If you have no plans to remarry, you’re losing a partner who could help you through old age. Wrote one woman: “Life has been good, but as I get older and have a lot of time on my hands, I miss him. Consider a few years down the road, maybe you can put up with the old boy so you can enjoy each other when you are really old.”

  • Even though you don’t need to stay together any longer because of your children, your adult children may react badly to their parents splitting up. They could take sides, and you could lose a relationship with your son or daughter, hopefully temporarily.

Sources

After Full Lives Together, More Older Couples Are Divorcing,” Oct. 30, 2015, New York Times.

Gray divorce can drag both parties into the red,” April 8, 2016, Washington Post.

Grey Divorce and Conscious Aging: 7 Ideas to Consider,” Jan, 10, 2015, Huffington Post.

50 Shades of Grey Divorce,” Aug. 23, 2016, Huffington Post.

Till Death Do Us Part? No way. Gray Divorce on the Rise,” Oct. 8, 2014 Washington Post.

7 Things to Know About Divorcing During Your Senior Years,” April 24, 2015, U.S. News.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Famous & 65

Look Who’s Turning 65

Jan. 11—Ben Crenshaw

Jan. 11—Ben Crenshaw - Source=http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/2925999050/ |Author=Keith Allison

The retired American professional golfer won 19 events on the PGA Tour, including two major championships: the Masters Tournament in 1984 and 1995. Nicknamed “Gentle Ben,” Crenshaw is widely regarded as one of the best putters in golf history. After he won three NCAA Championships at the University of Texas, from 1971 to 1973, he turned professional in 1973. That year, Crenshaw became the second player in Tour history to win the first event of his career. Following five runner-up finishes in major championships without a victory, including losing a sudden-death playoff for the 1979 PGA Championship, in 1984, he won the Masters.

In the mid-1980s, Crenshaw suffered from Graves' disease (of the thyroid), but he continued to accumulate victories, including an emotional second Masters victory in 1995, which came a week after the death of his mentor, Harvey Penick. In 1999, while he was captain of the United States Ryder Cup team for the matches in Brookline, Mass., the U.S. won 8 ½ of the final day's 12 points to regain the Cup. Since 1986, Crenshaw has been a partner with Bill Coore in Coore & Crenshaw, a golf course design firm. His final and 44th Masters was in 2015.


Jan. 12—Ricky Van Shelton

Jan. 12—Ricky Van Shelton

The country music artist charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts between 1986 and 2006. This figure includes 10 number one hits: "Somebody Lied," "Life Turned Her That Way," 'Don't We All Have the Right," "I'll Leave This World Loving You," "From a Jack to a King" (a cover of the Ned Miller hit), "Living Proof," "I've Cried My Last Tear for You," "Rockin' Years" (a duet with Dolly Parton), "I Am a Simple Man" and "Keep It Between the Lines." Besides these, seven more of his singles have landed in the Top 10 on the same chart. Shelton has also released nine studio albums, of which his first four have been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

He got his start in the mid-80s, playing in clubs around Nashville, where a newspaper columnist heard one of Shelton's demos and arranged an audition with Columbia Records In 1986, CBS offered Shelton a recording contract, and that same year he recorded his first album, Wild-Eyed Dream. His album reached the No. 1 spot on the Top Country Albums chart in 1987, was one of the biggest-selling country albums of the year and made Shelton one of the most successful male vocalists of that year. Over the next seven years, he continued making albums for Columbia, including Loving Proof (1988), a No. 1 Billboard country album; RVS III (1989); and Backroads (1992).

By 1992, Shelton's success was waning, as country music changed and he admitted he was an alcoholic. In 1994, he left Columbia Records and formed his own label, RVS Records, in 1997. That same year, he released his first album in three years titled Making Plans. In 2000, Shelton signed with the Audium label, where he made another album called Fried Green Tomatoes. In May 2006, he retired from touring to spend more time with his family. Shelton is the author of a series of children’s books, including Tales From a Duck Named Quacker.


Jan. 14—Maureen Dowd

Jan. 14—Maureen Dowd

The New York Times columnist and a best-selling author started her journalism career in the 1970s and early 1980s working for Time magazine and the Washington Star, where she covered news and sports and wrote feature articles. Dowd joined The New York Times in 1983 and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for her series of columns on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton administration.

Dowd's columns are distinguished by an acerbic, often polemical writing style. They frequently display a critical and irreverent attitude toward powerful, mostly political figures such as former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Dowd was named a Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine in 1996, won the Damon Runyon Award for outstanding contributions to journalism in 2000 and became the first Mary Alice Davis Lectureship speaker at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005.


Jan. 20—Paul Stanley

Jan. 20—Paul Stanley - Photo by Phil Konstantin

Best known for being the rhythm guitarist and singer for the rock band Kiss, Stanley wrote or co-wrote many of the band's highest-charting hits. Hit Parader ranked him 18th on its list of Top 100 Metal Vocalists of All Time. A Gibson.com Readers Poll also named him 13th on its list of Top 25 Frontmen. A descendant of Holocaust survivors, Stanley grew up in Manhattan. A misshapen ear from a birth defect caused hearing problems (and abuse from classmates), although he loved to listen to music, including Beethoven. Later, he was inspired by the Beatles’ and the Rolling Stones’ performances on television.

As a young man, Stanley played in several bands before meeting bass player Gene Simmons, with whom he formed the band Kiss, along with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley. Kiss released its self-titled debut album in February 1974. Stanley's persona, "The Starchild," used one star over his right eye. “I always loved stars and always identified with them, so when it came time to put something on my face, I knew it would be a star," he said.

Besides his work with Kiss, Stanley starred in a Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera, in which he played the role of the Phantom, in 1999. He became part of the ownership group that created the L.A. Kiss Arena Football League team, in Anaheim, Calif., in 2013, and he published his memoir, Face the Music: A Life Exposed, in 2014. Because of his birth defect, he is an ambassador for the charitable organization AboutFace, which provides support and information to people with facial differences.


Source: Wikipedia

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

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Getting Computer Fixed Can Be a Challenge

Where to go for computer tech support

Older adults can find help through programs aimed at those who are not technically savvy.

For older adults who didn’t grow up with computers, getting your laptop or desktop fixed can be a challenge. A simple problem such as your computer stopped communicating with your wireless printer can cause much frustration.

You can Google your problem, but the directions you find on a tech support website may include terminology you’re not familiar with and cause even more headaches. Other websites could offer to fix the problem but might ask for personal information or a small fee, with no guarantee that they can repair the issue or that the whole thing isn’t a scam.

So if your computer keeps freezing up or is running slow, where can you go for help?

In Colorado, a company called GroovyTek offers “personal technology training sessions” for older adults. Its name—and the psychedelic design of its advertisements — targets baby boomers—the generation that came of age in the “groovy” era of the 1970s. GroovyTek believes “people over 40 are being mistreated and ignored by Silicon Valley.” For $90, a representative will come to your home and give you a personal consultation, speaking “on your own terms”—presumably in language not too technical.

Programs Aimed at Seniors

Besides GroovyTek, other programs offer support and education for older adults, either for free or for a fee. AARP has partnered with Best Buy’s Geek Squad to offer AARP members access to support technicians by phone, online or in the store. “Tech Support for AARP Members” includes a personal tech shopper; setup and installation of computers, tablets and peripherals; and troubleshooting and repair services. It’s no surprise that AARP partnered with the Geek Squad, as more than one-third of Geek Squad’s service subscribers are between the ages of 55 and 64.

Several nonprofit organizations focus on teaching computer skills. SeniorNet has been training older adults about the computer and Internet since 1986. Its yearly membership fee gives you access to learning centers in 17 states and to the SeniorNet website’s members-only parts. It claims to have worked with two million boomers and seniors.

Oasis Connections provides computer, Internet and mobile technology classes in 30 U.S. cities. It partners with local libraries, job help centers, senior centers and faith-based organizations.

In New York City, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) has worked with government agencies, community-based organizations, national advocacy groups and major corporations to build the country’s largest and most comprehensive municipal technology program for seniors, serving over 20,000 people each year and sustaining 24 technology labs across the city.

In addition, libraries, senior centers and local colleges offer computer and personal technology classes for older adults. You can call your Area Agency on Aging to find out what’s available near you (to find your local number AAA number, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 or check the website). Lifelong Learning Institutes, which are usually affiliated with colleges and universities, often offer technology courses. To find one, contact your closest colleges.

Support From Your Computer Maker

Many people turn to their computer’s manufacturer, using online tech support—either the company’s website or a chat or email with a tech support person. When Consumer Reports surveyed users about different companies, it found that Apple tech support was by far the most effective of any computer brand’s. With most Windows PCs, it found only a 50-50 chance that the manufacturer’s tech support could fix the problem. Consumer Reports also found that those who made a phone call, versus going to the website, were more satisfied with the results.

Consumer Reports discovered that computer owners had generally good experiences when they used a walk-in store. Apple’s Genius Bars rated the best, with Best Buy’s Geek Squad and Staples’ EasyTech not far behind. Business News Daily gave the Geek Squad its top award in providing online tech support for business owners and also praised Support.com, another online tech support business.


Sources

Where to go for computer tech support,” May 28, 2015, Consumer Reports.

The Top Online Tech Support Services,” Oct. 9, 2013, Business News Daily.

GroovyTek: Heck yeah, we’re from Centennial,” April 25, 2016, Denver Post.

Tech Help for Granny? Geek Squad to the Rescue,” April 25, 2012, Business News Daily.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Earn CSA CEUs at AiA17

American Society on Aging’s Annual Conference

ASA's 2017 Aging in America Conference will take place in Chicago, March 20-24. Will you be there?

The focus of AiA17 is innovation, including innovative policies, programs, practices, models, businesses, technologies, learning and more from across the field of aging. Register now to join this conference community of nearly 3,000 multidisciplinary professionals who, like you, are working to improve the lives of older adults.

The Aging in America Conference is recognized for its 360-degree view of the multidisciplinary issues, challenges and opportunities in aging. In addition to programs organized within 11 professional program categories, our 2017 conference will feature several "conferences within the conference" that run each day throughout the week. We will bring back our Managed Care Academy series of programs and introduce the following designed learning journeys:

This unique leadership development opportunity is open to all professionals in the field of aging who have at least three to five years’ experience and a strong interest in building personal leadership skills and capabilities. Successful participants will earn a Leadership Institute Certificate of Completion and up to eight CSA CEUs.

Don't miss this opportunity to network and learn from the experts on multiple topics and earn up to 26 CSA CEUs at no additional cost!

Register by January 31 and save 10%. Enter discount code SCSA50 and save $50 more!

View the 2017 Aging in America Conference program and event guide.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Seniors Break Barriers with Prisoners

Young@Heart Chorus performs rock and R&B all over the world, including prisons.

It’s hard to imagine: a chorus composed of 73- to 89-year-olds singing with prison inmates. Not only singing but getting these tough guys to raise their arms in solidarity during a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

The Young@Heart Chorus, based in Northampton, Mass., launched its Prison Project in October 2014 at two local prisons. Not only has the project broken down barriers between the seniors and the inmates but among the inmates also, who let down their guard in front of the older folks and start singing themselves.

In addition to the weekly prison visits, the group has performed all over Europe and the United States, plus New Zealand and Australia. And if you think their repertoire consists of old classics, think again. These singers rock out with music by James Brown, David Bowie, ColdPlay, Prince and Pearl Jam.

“When you see the elders on the street, you think they have nothing going on,” said one inmate, “but then when you get to know them, they do have something going on. They have their community. That keeps them young.”


Sources

A Rock Group With the Minimum Age of 73,” Sept. 8, 2016, Next Avenue.

Young@Heart Chorus,” Young@Heart Chorus.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cataract Surgery to Improve Vision Now Routine

Cataract Surgery

The main question is not whether to get the operation but what kind of replacement lens you want.

Before 1949, if your vision started to deteriorate because of cataracts, you had to either wear the highest level of reading glasses you could find, seek out the brightest light or resign yourself to increasing blindness. But that year, surgeons at a hospital in London inserted the first lens into a patient’s eye with cataracts. Ever since, cataract surgery has become the cure for people whose eyesight has deteriorated because of a cloudy lens.

Cataracts are part of the aging process, as our eye lenses become less transparent, less resilient and often thicker. Half of the population over 80 has cataracts. A cataract interferes with the retina’s ability to convert light into signals that are sent to the brain. At the start of cataracts, which develop slowly, things look blurred. When the condition becomes bad enough that it interferes with your daily life, your ophthalmologist can replace your cloudy natural lens with a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). Made of plastic, acrylic or silicone, the IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye.

Surgeons choose from two different cataract surgery methods. Phacoemulsification, the most common, inserts a probe through a tiny incision in the front of your eye and then transmits ultrasound waves that break apart the cloudy lens. The surgeon removes the broken lens pieces and inserts a new lens. The second type of surgery, extracapsular cataract extraction, requires a larger incision to remove the cataract.

The cataract operation has become so commonplace that surgeons do it on an outpatient basis in as quickly as 15 minutes. Normal sight returns within several days.

Increasingly, the question to ask is not “should I get cataract surgery?” but “what kind of lenses do I want?”

How to Prevent Cataracts

The most effective prevention is not to get older. Since that’s not possible, here are other measures that can help you avoid or decrease the risk of getting cataracts.

  • Have regular eye exams. These can detect other eye problems as well, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, before they become serious.

  • Wear sunglasses outside. This protects your eyes from harmful UVB rays, which increase your risk over time.

  • Reduce alcohol use. Excessive drinking can increase the risk of cataracts.

  • Eat foods rich in antioxidants. This includes fruits and vegetables. Some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon and sardines, also reduce the risk of cataracts.

  • Quit smoking. Research shows that smoking doubles your chances of developing cataracts.

  • Keep diabetes in check. Studies show that diabetics have a greater likelihood of cataracts.

Signs of Cataracts

At first, problems with your vision may not be too serious, and your doctor might recommend stronger eyeglasses or sunglasses with an anti-glare coating. But if you’re becoming more aware of any of these symptoms, it might be time for cataract surgery:

  • Blurred vision

  • Difficulty seeing at night, especially when driving

  • Sensitivity toward sun’s glare

  • Seeing a halo around bright lights

  • Colors are not as bright

  • Need for more light to do up-close tasks like reading

  • Double vision

Types of Lenses

There are basically two types of cataract lenses: monofocal and multifocal. Monofocal is the standard, with a single focus usually set for middle or distance vision. For fixed-focus monofocal lenses, the surgeon fits one eye with a lens for distance vision and the other for near vision. Another alternative is accommodating-focus monofocal lenses, which respond to eye muscle movements and shift focus to near or distant objects.

The multifocal lens is similar to the progressive lens used in eyeglasses, with near, intermediate and distance vision available.

When talking to your doctor about the two types of lenses, keep in mind that eye surgeons can make twice as much money on multifocal surgery than on monofocal surgery. Here are points to consider when making a decision:

  • Monofocals usually provide better intermediate vision (making it easier to see your computer screen, for example). Because of this, you might need to add a pair of eyeglasses for both near and distance vision. With multifocals, you will likely need only one pair of glasses, if any, to correct for eye weaknesses. In one survey of post-surgery cataract patients, 71 percent of multifocal patients users didn’t require glasses post-surgery, compared to only 26 percent for monofocal.

  • With monofocals, you can alter your vision with different strengths of glasses, while with multifocals, you can’t take one lens away, because the lenses are part of the multifocal.

  • Some people who got multifocals complained of disturbing visual symptoms, including halos or glare (known as dysphotopsia). Multifocal lens users can’t see contrasts as easily as the other group and may be unable to see details. This can be distracting and especially harmful when driving.

  • People with monofocals have expressed more satisfaction about their lenses than have those with multifocals.

  • Insurance typically covers monofocal lenses but not multifocals. Medicare covers your costs for monofocals if you test below a certain level of acuity or clarity. Private insurance plans may have similar vision requirements.

  • Multifocal lenses are not recommended for those who suffer from certain types of corneal disease or who have brain disorders that affect the transmission of light, such as a stroke.

After the Surgery

Doctors say that one of the most important actions cataract patients can take to avoid post-surgery complications is to use the prescribed eyedrops. These consist of three types: antibiotic to prevent infections, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and steroid to reduce and eliminate inflammation. You will need to apply the eyedrops several times a day. Typically, patients start using the antibiotic drops a few days before surgery and afterward for about a week, and the anti-inflammatory drops for three to six weeks or longer in some cases.


Sources

Considering cataract surgery? What you should know,” October 2016, Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Cataract,” HealthLine.

Cataract Surgery,” Nov. 15, 2016, American Academy of Ophthalmology.

What to Expect From Cataract Surgery,” WebMD.

Cataract Surgery,” Mayo Clinic.

A comparison of multifocal and monofocal intraocular lens implants used in cataract surgery,” March 06, 2012, PubMedHealth.

Monovision vs Multifocal IOLs for Spectacle Independence After Cataract Surgery,” March 03, 2014, Medscape.

The great debate: Monofocal vs. multifocal,” June 2011, ASCRS EyeWorld.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Preplanning a Funeral Helps Survivors

Preplanning Funeral Services

After a loved one’s death is not the best time to make decisions about a ceremony that can be expensive.

When Steve’s father died of a heart attack, Steve had no idea which funeral home to use. He chose one that he saw on his way from the airport to his father’s apartment. In a state of shock, Steve let the funeral director talk him into buying one of the more expensive caskets and setting up an elaborate funeral and visitation, even though his father, at age 96, didn’t have many friends or relatives remaining who would attend. Only later did Steve realize that he paid for services that he didn’t really need. In fact, months later, going through his father’s papers, he found that his father wanted to be cremated.

Unfortunately, after a loved one’s death can be the worst time to make arrangements for the funeral and visitation. Loved ones are being asked to make quick decisions at a time when they are in shock or in extreme stages of grief. They may not have any idea what their loved one wanted, and there is no time to go through papers and find out. Should the deceased be buried or cremated? What should the obituary say? Should there be a big funeral or just family? If no cemetery has been chosen, how do you find one? Who should the pallbearers be? What kind of music or readings would the deceased want?

One way to avoid this difficult decision-making is to preplan a funeral, either for yourself, especially if you are single, or for your loved ones.

Reasons to Preplan

Years, or even months, before a funeral plan becomes necessary, it’s helpful to acquire information, visit funeral homes and get a list of prices for comparison. Funerals can be expensive—averaging $10,000 for a traditional funeral—so you don’t want to end up paying for something you don’t really need or want. And if the cost falls to your children, this could hurt them financially or cause resentment.

When you preplan, you have time to think about how much you can afford (or your children can afford, in some cases) and what you really want—a simple ceremony with family and a few friends or something more elaborate that will involve distant cousins, acquaintances and old neighbors. Because these decisions affect your family and friends, you have time to sit down with them and discuss the options.

What is meaningful for you? Is burial important or would you prefer to be cremated (a less expensive alternative) and have your ashes scattered? What kind of ceremony do you envision that would summarize your life and give comfort to your survivors? Do you want a visitation in addition to the funeral?

If there is no body at the funeral, you don’t need a mortician. Some people come up with their own rituals, such as favorite writings, a slide show of photos or the right music. Preplanning gives you time to research ideas for alternative funerals.

Planning ahead also spares survivors the stress of making these decisions under pressure, so they can instead spend their time honoring and grieving their loved one.

Should You Prepay?

Although it is recommended that you preplan, you shouldn’t necessarily prepay for the funeral. While you may want to lock in prices that could go up, they could also go down. Businesses can close, change ownership and/or acquire poor reputations. When the time comes for the funeral, and survivors go to the funeral home their loved one chose, they may be told there are additional fees or the contract may be different than what their parents told them it included. However, the main reason to consider prepaying your funeral, burial or cremation is to shelter your assets from Medicaid.

Although state laws govern the prepayment of funeral goods and services, protections vary widely from state to state, and some state laws offer little or no effective protection. Some state laws require the funeral home or cemetery to place a percentage of the prepayment in a state-regulated trust or to purchase a life insurance policy with the death benefits assigned to the funeral home or cemetery. If you do prepay, make sure the contract ensures that you or your survivors get a full refund if plans are later changed—for example, if you move to a different state.

Some of the risks of prepaying include (from Funeral Consumers Alliance)

  • If you cancel, move or change your plan, you may not receive a full refund.

  • In many states, part or all of the interest earned on your account may be withdrawn each year by the seller.

  • The money you pay for funeral arrangements now won’t be available for emergencies later.

  • Many insurance companies will not pay the full benefit—or anything at all—during the first few years the premiums are being paid.

  • Money spent today may not cover future funeral costs, which could result in the use of cheaper merchandise or requests for additional money.

  • Survivors may not be aware that funeral costs have been paid and may pay at a different funeral home.

Funeral Rule Protects Consumers

Funeral homes have a reputation of taking advantage of people when they are at their most vulnerable. In addition, Wall Street companies have bought up and consolidated many businesses that were locally owned. To protect consumers, the federal government has instituted regulations. The Funeral Rule, which the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces, makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you make arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. Some of the rights under the Funeral Rule are to:

  • Get price information on the telephone.

  • Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home.

  • See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets.

  • See a written outer burial container price list.

  • Receive a written statement after you decide what you want and before you pay.

  • Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation.

  • Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere.

  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming.

For other rights under the Funeral Rule and more information about preplanning a funeral, see the FTC site.

Types of Preplans

There are several methods to set up a funeral plan, either by working with the funeral provider or setting up your own fund. Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit educational organization that supports increased funeral consumer protection, lists four:

Pre-need insurance. Offered by funeral providers, you pay installments to an intermediary insurance company. However, in most cases, you will spend as much or more in premiums than the policy will actually pay out at the time of your death.

Regulated trust plans. You pay the funeral home the cost of a funeral either in installments or in a lump sum. The director places the money into an interest-bearing trust account and serves as the trustee. After death, the trust funds are paid directly to the funeral provider named in the trust.

These come in the form of an irrevocable trust, which can’t be changed or dissolved without the permission of the trustee, or a revocable trust, which you can cash out or cancel at any time. Money set aside in an irrevocable trust will be excluded from your net assets when your eligibility to receive Supplementary Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid benefits is determined. On the other hand, Medicaid can take money placed in a revocable trust if your other assets have been depleted.

Prearrange without prepaying. After you research various funeral providers and their plans, write down your plan and let your family know what you want. Some funeral providers might let you fill out a pre-arrangement form and leave it on file at their business.

Pay-on-death account. You can set up your own “payable on death” (POD) account by depositing in a bank enough money to cover the current price of a funeral and let the accumulated interest cover any cost increase due to inflation. This account can be made payable upon death to a trusted family member or friend who will use the money for your funeral. POD bank accounts are FDIC-insured, they remain in your name and money can be withdrawn at any time. However, Medicaid treats these accounts as assets, and the interest is subject to income tax.


Sources

Planning Your Own Funeral,” Federal Trade Commission.

Did You Forget the Most Important Part of Funeral Planning?,” April 28, 2016, Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Should You Prepay For Your Funeral?,” Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors
www.csa.us

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Don’t Wait to Check for Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma Diagnosis

There is no universally recommended or accurate screening test for mesothelioma, but there are multiple diagnostic tests that can help determine if someone may have this type of cancer. It is a deadly and aggressive type of cancer that is most closely associated with exposure to asbestos. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are in the later stages when curing it is impossible and all that can be done is extend the patient’s life or provide palliative care. Not everyone needs to be worried about mesothelioma, a rare cancer, but if you have risk factors, getting checked now is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Who is at Risk for Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a cancer that attacks the mesothelium, the tissue that covers most organs in the body. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which affects the pleura around the lungs, but even this type of mesothelioma is rare. This cancer is most often caused by exposure to asbestos, but there have been rare cases in people never exposed to asbestos, which suggest a genetic component.

The people most likely to develop mesothelioma are those who worked around asbestos for many years, especially before about 1980. Workers in construction, ship building and repair, in the U.S. Navy, in mining, in the automotive industry, in power plants and industrial settings, in textile and other types of factories, and firefighters are those that now may be at the greatest risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Anyone with a family history of this cancer may also be at an elevated risk.

Mesothelioma Has a Long Latency Period

The latency period for mesothelioma—the time between being exposed to asbestos and being diagnosed—has been found to be as long as 50 years with a mean period of several decades. By the time someone is diagnosed the disease has been quietly developing for years and is usually advanced, difficult to treat, and incurable. Most people diagnosed with mesothelioma are men over the age of 50, many over 70. The reasons for the long latency period include symptoms that are similar to those of less serious conditions, difficulties in diagnosing mesothelioma, the rarity of this cancer, and the f act that symptoms may not become severe until later stages.

The Consequences of a Late Diagnosis

This long latency period for mesothelioma has serious consequences. By the time someone is diagnosed, they may have few treatment options. The cancer may even have already metastasized, making even surgery impossible. There are many reasons that most cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the later stages, but some of these can be avoided.

If you believe you may be at an increased risk for this type of cancer, you can undergo screenings, such as CT scans and biopsies, to find out if it is possible that you have mesothelioma. If you worked in a career that could have exposed you to asbestos, or someone in your family has it, talk to your doctor about the options you have for screening. Doing it now could mean many more years of life and a chance to beat the cancer if you have it.

Author - Virgil Anderson

- By Virgil Anderson

Virgil Anderson is currently fighting against Mesothelioma, a disease caused by asbestos. At the age of 50, Virgil is staying with family in West Virginia where he is taken care of during his treatments.


Sources

Mesothelioma Diagnosis,” Mesothelioma.net.

Diseases and Conditions: Mesothelioma,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).

Occupational Characteristics of Cases with Asbestos-related Diseases in The Netherlands” Oxford University Press.

Are Your Investments Suitable, or in Your Best Interest – or Both?

Are Your Investments Suitable, or in Your Best Interest – or Both?

Kim is interviewing financial advisors to invest her inheritance. One candidate with several financial credentials assures Kim she will recommend only investments that are suitable for her.

Will these recommendations also be in Kim’s best interest?

An investment may be suitable but not necessarily in a client’s best interests.

Many investors, particularly older adults, incorrectly believe that a financial designation of any kind suggests the person who has it works in the client’s best interests (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 2013). A 2015 report by the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association says:

Many investors are confused by the different standards of care that apply to Investment Advisers and Brokers, and many do not even know which type of investment professional the person with whom they are doing business is. Investors believe their financial adviser, be the title “broker” or “investment adviser,” is acting in their best interest (Peiffer, Lazaro, 2015).

Adding to investor confusion, brokers often have job titles such as wealth manager, wealth advisor, asset manager, financial consultant, financial advisor or investment consultant.

Fiduciary Duty – Putting a Client's Best Interest First

A fiduciary is “one who acts in utmost good faith, in a manner he or she reasonably believes to be in the best interest of the client” (CFP Board of Standards, 2014). According to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (2013):

A fiduciary relationship is generally viewed as the highest standard of customer care available under law. Fiduciary duty includes both a duty of care and a duty of loyalty . . . these duties require a fiduciary to act in the best interest of the customer, and to provide full and fair disclosure of material facts and conflicts of interest.

Registered investment advisors and their representatives are required to be fiduciaries by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Certain financial designations also require fiduciary responsibilities, including Certified Financial Planner®, Chartered Financial Analyst, Certified Public Accountant/Personal Financial Specialist and membership in the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

Brokers do not have a fiduciary duty under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 because their advice is considered incidental to the sale of stock.

Suitability

Brokers are required to recommend what is suitable for their clients by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, state laws and regulations, and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rules (Peiffer, Lazaro, 2015).

The suitability of an investment is based on the client’s investment profile—a combination of unique characteristics including age, income and net worth, risk tolerance, investment objectives, time horizon, financial expertise, and other security holdings.

Suitability does not require the client’s best interest or prohibit conflicts of interest (Sobolewski, 2012). Also, advisors and brokers who are employees of a brokerage firm must use their firm’s proprietary product list to recommend suitable investments for their clients. Investors could go to different financial professionals and have different products from which to choose.

When Financial Professionals Have Multiple Designations

When financial professionals serve as both advisor and broker, they can legally switch between fiduciary and suitability standards, depending on the product or service.

This will change January 1, 2018 when the US Department of Labor’s 2016 Fiduciary Rule is fully implemented. Starting then, those who both provide financial advice and carry out recommendations for brokerage and insurance transactions that involve IRAs or tax-qualified retirement plans such as a 401(k) will have to meet fiduciary duty when doing the transactions, as well as when providing financial advice (Shaw, 2016).

Determining Fiduciary Duty or Suitability

Some financial professionals who are not legally required to meet the fiduciary standard still do so. To find out if a person follows a fiduciary or suitability standard, ask these questions from the Financial Planning Association of Silicon Valley (2013):

RESOURCES

American Institute of CPAs. Personal Financial Planning

Carson, Brett (March 2015). U.S. News & World Report: Investing. "Is Your Financial Advisor a Fiduciary?"

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (2016). "Consumer Outreach."

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

FINRA Securities Helpline for Seniors. Call 844-57-HELPS (844-574-3577) Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors.

National Endowment for Financial Education.

US Department of Labor (2016). "Are Your Retirement Savings at Risk?"

US Securities and Exchange Commission (August 2012). "Investment Advisers: What You Need to Know Before Choosing One."


  • Are you obligated to act under a fiduciary standard, and can you please spell out, in writing, the fiduciary responsibilities to which you must adhere?

  • Which licenses and designations do you have, and which of those do and do not include a fiduciary standard?

  • Are you willing to fully disclose all potential conflicts of interest, as well as the compensation you may receive as a result of products you recommend, and your rationale for recommending them?

  • If you do not hold a license or designation that carries a fiduciary responsibility, have you chosen to adhere to a fiduciary standard anyway, and if so, can you please describe, in writing, the fiduciary responsibilities to which you have chosen to adhere?





In Kim’s scenario, if the candidate follows both suitability and fiduciary standards, her recommendations should be in Kim’s best interest. Kim can ask questions and do due diligence on all the candidates, compare what she learns with her investment goals and preferences, and then select the one she thinks can best help her invest her inheritance.

 


Sources

Braid, Ethan S. (March 2013). “Is My Financial Advisor a Fiduciary or a Stockbroker?

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2013). “Senior Designations for Financial Advisers.”

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (2016). “Investment Advisors.”

Financial Planning Association of Silicon Valley (2013). “What It Means to Work with a Financial Fiduciary.”

Frankle, Neal (July 2012). U.S. News & World Report: Money. “3 Investment Mistakes Your Broker Wants You to Make.”

Leondis, Alexis (September 15, 2010). Bloomberg. “‘Clueless’ Investors Think Brokers Are Fiduciaries, Survey Says.”

Peiffer, Joseph C. and Lazaro, Christine. Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association Report (March 25, 2015). “Major Investor Losses Due to Conflicted Advice: Brokerage Industry Advertising Creates the Illusion of a Fiduciary Duty, Misleading Ads Fuel Confusion, Underscore Need for Fiduciary Standard.”

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC 2014). “Suitability,” Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA 2013). Fiduciary.

Shaw, Michael P. (June 2016). “The Challenge of Complying with Multiple and Differing Fiduciary Rules.”

Sobolewski, Tim (September 2012). “Who Is a Fiduciary? Fiduciary vs. Suitability: Which Standard Is Best?” The Safer Retirement Advisor.

Society of Certified Senior Advisors, Working with Older Adults: A Professional’s Guide to Contemporary Issues of Aging (2015).

The Working with Older Adults course offered by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors gives professionals a practical, comprehensive understanding of health, social and financial issues that are important to many older adults, including ethical issues specific to aging. For more information, or to enroll in a class, click here.