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Monday, May 29, 2017

How Seniors Can Cut Costs by Exploring Solar Energy

How Seniors Can Cut Costs by Exploring Solar Energy

Living on fixed incomes, American seniors are one of the most at-risk segments of homeowners regarding foreclosures. This group of retirement-aged homeowners is increasingly energy savvy. They are choosing to make investments in their homes now, to save on energy costs, avoid rate hikes, and take advantage of government incentives. Many of them are choosing to become solar seniors.

The largest percentage of the United States population is aged 65, and over, of that group, 64 percent have a positive view of solar energy. This according to a report by Pike Research. They also found that 58 percent of Americans aged 55-69 are interested in installing solar panels out of concern for the environment as well as to decrease their energy costs.

This growing number of solar seniors will likely have a broad and profound effect on the transition in the U.S., to more clean, renewable energy. As far as energy savings, one can expect to save between 20 and 40 percent in annual energy costs with solar panels installation. Of course, this doesn’t consider the costs involved in remodeling.

However, financial returns aren’t the only incentive for going solar. When a senior installs solar, they are also improving the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing their use of non-sustainable energy sources.

Ways Seniors Can Transform Their Homes for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability

Solar Panels

The most common image that comes to mind when one thinks of solar energy for the home is solar panels. Solar panels are formed by solar cells. These cells work by converting sunlight directly into electricity.

This is not unlike the cells that are used to power calculators or watches. Made of semiconductor materials like those used in a computer chip, they collect sunlight. When sunlight is absorbed, the solar energy displaces electrons from their atoms. This allows the electrons to travel through the cells, producing electricity. The process of converting photons or sunlight to electricity is called photovoltaic (PV) effect.

Solar cells are typically combined into panels that hold around 40 cells. These panels are then mounted in groups called PV arrays. These flat-plate panels can be mounted at a fixed angle, or they can be mounted on tracking devices that follow the sun. This allows the panels to capture sunlight over the full course of the day. Several PV arrays can provide enough power for an average household.

Solar Water Heaters

The sun can be used to heat the water used in homes and swimming pools. Home water heating systems that use solar have two parts: a storage tank and a solar collector. The most common type of collector is a flat-plate. Like PV panels, it is mounted on the roof. It consists of a flat, rectangular box with a cover and is mounted to face the sun for most of the day.

A system of tubes run through the box and carry the water to an absorber plate. As heat builds up, the water passing through the tubes is heated. A larger, well-insulated tank holds the hot water until it is used. Swimming pool solar heating systems are similar. However, the pool's pump is used to propel the water through the collector, and the water then is stored in the pool.

Solar Security Lights and Other Outdoor Solar Lighting

Solar powered motion-sensing lights are ideal for seniors who are concerned with keeping their home secure from those who lurk in shadows especially when the power goes out. Solar power security lights are more and more common because they are more powerful than they were previously.

Solar Attic Fans

An attic fan is an important part of cooling a house in warmer weather. A solar powered attic fan can push the hot air out of the attic space using sun-generated electricity. It keeps the house cooler and lightens the load on the AC unit. One square foot vented space for each 300 square feet of attic space is a good rule of thumb. Keep in mind, a solar attic fan costs nothing to operate, while an electric fan can be costly during the summer.

Seniors Can Benefit from Government Sponsored Initiatives for Solar Energy

Many states have solar initiatives designed to help those who are on a fixed income or have a limited income incorporate solar upgrades at a decreased or deferred cost. The goals of these initiatives are to:

  • Decrease the electricity usage through solar installation.

  • Reduce energy costs without users experiencing an increase in monthly expenses.

  • Provide incentives, both full and partial, for low-income participants to implement solar systems.

  • To make available, the power and efficiency of solar, to all homeowners regardless of their means or income.

  • To decrease expenses of solar ownership with a higher incentive than is offered by traditional means.

  • Develop more sustainable energy solutions which are environmentally and economically friendly.

To qualify for subsidies provided by the various states seniors should live in the home they are upgrading. They should also have a documented income lower than 80 percent of the state’s median income.

They would also need to be getting their home’s energy from mostly non-sustainable sources, including through the local electricity or gas company. To find a solar initiative in their state, seniors should check with the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to learn about the various incentive programs available for them.

Even without state incentives, there are cost savings from decreased utility electricity payments as well as financing, and deferred cost options, that prompt more and more senior homeowners to consider converting to solar power.

Author -  Jess Walter

- By Jess Walter, Freelance Writer.


Solar Seniors Help Realize California, U.S. Renewable Energy Goals,” TriplePundit.

How Solar Can Save You $$$ in Retirement” PowerScout.

Why go solar? Homeowners say: 'To save money',” CNBC.

Photovoltaic (Solar Electric),” Solar Energy Industries Association.


Solar Swimming Pool Heaters” Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

Beyond Bulky Panels: Attractive Options in Solar Power” HGTV.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency” DSIRE.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Voices in Aging (VIA) Sessions

The inaugural 2017 VIA Sessions will focus on the Business of Aging.

VIA or Voices In Aging Sessions bring together a community of multidisciplinary professionals in an interactive and experiential learning environment to inspire new ways of understanding later life. VIA Sessions explore current and future trends within the field of aging, incorporating the intricate relationships between the health, financial, spiritual and social structures that influence our lifespan.

Unparalleled societal aging and longevity demand creative and innovative responses from businesses positioning themselves to thrive in this marketplace. Businesses serving older adults need an understanding of the older consumer and the adaptations in product functions, service design, marketing and ethical considerations that are necessary for success.

The Business of Aging VIA Sessions will provide opportunities for attendees to interact with subject matter experts, coaches and other participants to explore and analyze their own businesses through the lens of our changing age demographic. Participants will be encouraged to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies needed for decision making, problem solving and imagination that are most valued in today’s successful aging enterprises. Attendees will review their own businesses, identify areas for improvement, develop specific objectives and incorporate new opportunities.

When: November 3-5, 2017

Where: The Westin Denver Downtown, 1672 Lawrence St, Denver, CO


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Benefits of Senior Living Following A Stroke

Benefits of Senior Living Following A Stroke

Nearly 600,000 people over 65 have strokes every year in the United States, and about 25% have recurrent attacks. A stroke can turn your life upside down, and affect friends and family as well. Most hospital stays after a stroke last just four days, and patients often return home. Nearly half in fact are discharged home directly after their hospitalization.

While going back home is usually the goal, it can cause problems. For instance, with such a short amount of time in the hospital, there is little opportunity to get the information you need to know for your recovery. You are generally not in a position to absorb information anyway and don’t yet understand just what help you’ll need when you return home.

In an ongoing study on care transitions post stroke, patients and caregivers discussed in focus groups the many unexpected challenges they faced when they got home. It was clear that in the hospital they just didn’t know what they didn’t know.

The transition home is particularly challenging because patients and caregivers are not aware of or don’t have access to community and medical resources. As a result, about 20% of stroke patients who are discharged and sent home end up back in the hospital or in a rehab facility within 30 days. And up to half of all informal caregivers of stroke patients have health problems themselves as a result of the stress of providing care.

Going to a senior community that can provide rehabilitation services for a period of time after hospitalization is one option that might help ease the transition home. About a quarter of stroke patients are discharged to a rehabilitation facility first. While most people think they need to transition to a Skilled Nursing Facility, in fact many can simply stay in a more comfortable assisted living community.

What Can Going to a Senior Living Community Do for Me?

It can keep you safe. Strokes affect everyone differently, but common problems include weakness, paralysis and speech problems, problems with balance or coordination, pain or numbness, problems with memory or thinking, and tiredness. Going to a senior community gives you time to address these issues so that you will be less likely to fall or have other problems when you return home. It also gives you time to make modifications to your home that may be needed for your safety.

It can give you time. About one out of four of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. are experienced by someone who has had a stroke before. Second strokes can be prevented with medical interventions and changes in lifestyle. Going to a senior community for rehabilitation gives you and your family time to learn how to prevent a second stroke, manage post-stroke disabilities and medications, and set up the services for when you get home.

Research has consistently found that earlier and more aggressive therapy is better for long-term stroke recovery. That means starting therapy earlier and moving to more difficult activities as quickly as possible. This can often be accomplished more easily in a rehabilitation program at an elder care community than at home. On-staff caregivers provide all the care that stroke sufferers need to be supported as they rehabilitate, while providing families peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are taken care of.

For more information about stroke recovery visit the National Stroke Association and the American Stroke Association websites.

Author -  Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD

- By Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD

Amanda Toler Woodward, PhD is an Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Michigan State University. She does research on services and supports for older adults including racial and ethnic disparities in access to services and international comparisons of service systems.


Stroke Statistics,” The Internet Stroke Center.

Improving Care Transitions for Acute Stroke Patients Through a Patient-Centered Home-Based Case Management Program,” Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Transitional Care for Rehabilitation,” Seniorly.

What is Assisted Living?” Seniorly.

A version of this article, Elder Care Following A Stroke written by Amanda Woodward appeared in Seniorly’s Senior Living Resource Center.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Look at America's Aging Future

America's Aging Future

Over the next few decades Baby Boomers will transform aging in the United States, presenting both opportunities and adversities.

In 2017, the United States senior population, 65 and over, quickly rolled past the highest number ever, a historic milestone of 50 million. Looking at the aging in America digital counter, a linear interpolation of the 2015 U. S. Census population estimates, the count will not let up soon. Even earlier estimates by the Census Bureau dating back to 2005 show us crossing the 50 million threshold at the beginning of 2017. Regardless, the gray tsunami has arrived.

It's the baby boomer segment, along with the longer life expectancy, that creates the surge, and it affects each state in the nation for the next several decades. This increase will result in more Medicare beneficiaries and higher Medicare spending, while fewer citizens pay into the system. The significant shift will cause challenges that we must address.

The Data

  • 75 million babies were born between 1946-1964.

  • If all the seniors in the U.S. held hands; they'd wrap the world twice.

  • 36,924,413 baby boomers will turn 65 over the next decade.

  • The number of U.S seniors will climb from just over 50 million in 2017, to 83 million by 2050.

Expected Senior Population Growth in Cities

  • Austin, TX - ↑ 8%

  • Seattle, WA - ↑ 8%

  • Charlotte, NC - ↑ 7%

  • San Jose, CA - ↑ 7%

  • Houston, TX - ↑ 5%

What the Experts Predict

The sheer number of aging baby boomers will transform our economy and our services. To get a better understanding, I asked the Aging Council at, "What industries will be affected most by the large segment, and explain how?"

"The wellness industry has a need for gyms specifically designed for boomer and seniors. And the food industry faces a big issue, food insecurity. Getting seniors to eat correctly will be both a challenge and an opportunity."

-Anthony Cirillo, CEO,

"Health care, home care, attendant care, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities, incontinence products. Finding qualified people to provide direct service to aging seniors is going to be a problem due to low wages and poor working conditions. It is also hugely expensive to get the care one might need, which could compromise the savings that seniors have squirreled away."

-Donna Schempp, Eldercare Advocate

"Most people know the critical impact that the population will have on healthcare and the housing industry. We do not have enough affordable and accessible homes in the major cities, and developers and builders are not paying attention to the trends."

-Nikki Buckelew, Founder, and CEO, Senior Real Estate Institute

"The industries affected most include skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation, memory care, etc., the pharmaceutical industry, and the medical device industry, especially assistive medical devices."

-Betsie Sassen, Advisor, Capitol Consulting, LLC

"The suburban model of single-family homes is too much for older adults to maintain. Living in suburbia will put a great strain on them and their independence. Co-housing options is a better choice for those in need of care."

-Margo Rose, President,

"Older adults apply massive demand across all services - from mental health, practitioners and providers, drugs, therapy, etc. Consumer Packaging: Smaller, lighter and easy to open/hold containers will be important design features. And of course, transportation – better public/private transport options are needed."

-Michelle Jeong, Vice President Marketing,

"Demand for LTSS (long-term care support and services) will increase, with attendant trickle-down effects (e.g., the rise of "silver industries" like geriatric care managers, senior relocation specialists, senior concierge services, and certified aging-in-place specialists). Baby boomers demand high-quality residential care, with an emphasis on privacy, personalization, luxury and access to integrated recreation and mental health."

-Stephen D. Foreman, (CLTC), Senior Vice President, Long-Term Care Associates, Inc.

"Technology - while many seniors have embraced it, others have not. Technology needs to adapt to those who aren't that adept and who have vision and hearing loss."

-Kaye Swain, President,

"The caregiving industry will experience significant growth as more people choose to age in their homes. It includes in-home medical care professionals & non-medical caregivers that provide aid in daily tasks. Tech companies that help seniors stay independent will grow, as more seniors & family caregivers adopt tech to give peace of mind and confidence to the senior."

-David Inns, CEO, GreatCall, Inc.

"The insurance industry will change, specifically health, life and long-term care. Insurance companies must do a better job of addressing health issues and promoting healthy living. Insurance actuaries need to do a better job calculating for longer life spans and more chronic conditions."

-Admond Fong, Co-Founder,

"The obvious answer: Hospitals, rehabs, and doctors are overwhelmed. The senior housing industry will be challenged to add services. Home care agencies will need to find other services to deliver at an affordable cost over the traditional minimum hourly contracts."

-Caryn Isaacs, Patient Advocate,

"Financial advisors will see a significant number of clients selling off their stocks and bonds to pay for retirement. Apparently, the medical profession will see a shift in elder care needs. The travel industry needs an overhaul."

-Ben Mandelbaum, COO,

"Government: Social Security remains unsustainable due to sheer numbers. We’ve long outgrown it. Healthcare: We are unprepared, and yet we continue to treat and suspend entire industries on the focus of youth and longevity. We lost quality to quantity. Marketing has fed and shaped our culture, and sadly they may prevail. Housing: again we are behind the eight ball in planning and access."

-Nancy Ruffner, CEO,

"In particular, aviation. There will be a global shortage of pilots over the next 20 years. In 2009, the FAA raised the mandatory retirement age of airline pilots from 60 to 65 to help with the decrease. Low starting salaries and rising costs of licensing has contributed to the shortage. Airline profits skyrockets."

-Scot Cheben, Co-Founder,

"Aging services will be most affected by the growing number of seniors. Demand for medical care for complex cases involving multiple chronic health conditions will grow exponentially. Long-term care needs will also rise dramatically. Healthcare providers need to increase staffing and training in geriatrics. Medicare and insurance companies have to figure out how to pay for this care."

-Connie Chow, Founder,

Author -  Carol Marak

- By Carol Marak

Carol Marak, aging advocate, syndicated columnist, and editor at She earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology. Carol ages alone and shares her experiences with followers via Next Avenue, Huffington Post, and over 40 newspapers nationwide.


An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States,” U.S. Census Bureau.

Aging America: The U.S. Cities Going Gray The Fastest,” Forbes.

The Growth of the U.S. Aging Population”

Monday, May 15, 2017

How to Design and Create a Senior-Friendly Bedroom

How to Design and Create a Senior-Friendly Bedroom

Not all homes and bedrooms are ideal for senior citizen use. This is because a lot of the simple activities that we take for granted in childhood and adulthood can become increasingly difficult with old age. Whether it’s because of a disease, a chronic injury, or the ravages of time, even moving around the room can pose a challenge for some senior citizens. If you want to create a fully safe and comfortable room in your home for either grandma or grandpa, there are some important factors that you need to consider first.

Pick a Room on the Ground Floor for Easier Access

Make it easier on your senior by selecting a room on the ground floor. The less stairs and rises that they have to worry about, the better. In fact, any stairs or level changes between the front door and the senior bedroom should be eliminated using ramps, especially if they need a wheelchair to move around. If not, you can just install handrails/grab bars for added safety while crossing steps or level changes.

If there’s no room on the first floor for a senior bedroom, you can place it on the higher floors of your home, provided you also install a stairlift or a chairlift so they won’t have to use the stairs. Providing your senior with easy access to their bedroom is not just for comfort, it’s also safer as it greatly lessens the chances of injury at home.

Minimize Bedroom Clutter to Prevent Accidents

There should be nothing in the bedroom that can potentially fall and cause accidents. The floors of the room should be clear, and the bedroom essentials (mattress, dresser, medicine cabinet, etc.) should be easily accessible without having to hop over some clutter. The cleaner and simpler the bedroom, the safer it is.

Make Sure the Bed is Clean and Firm

Whether you’re planning to furnish the room with a brand new mattress or an old one at home, hygiene comes first. The last thing you want is to let grandma/grandpa sleep on a moldy or dust mite infested mattress, possibly exacerbating any existing medical conditions. Before you set it on the stable bed frame you’ve picked for the room, make sure that your mattress is 100% clean. Before putting on fresh sheets, wrap the bed in a waterproof mattress protector for best results.

Another important concern is the firmness of the mattress. Apart from your senior’s personal preferences, you should also consult their attending physician as to what kind of bed is most ideal for their patient. Those with chronic back problems are usually advised to get a firm mattress that offers full back and body support. Don’t let your senior sleep on an old, busted spring mattress that’s more suited for the landfill or home DIY projects.

Include an Exercise Option In the Bedroom

If the bedroom is big enough for more than a bed and a dresser, then it might be big enough to include an area for exercise. Depending on how fit the senior is, there are a bunch of exercising options that you can make available right in the comfort of their bedroom. From elliptical trainers to resistance-training bands, any low-impact exercise can increase the senior’s health and mobility with minimal risk of injury.

Ensure Adequate Lighting and Temperature Control

Install more lighting options inside the bedroom to make up for your senior’s poorer eyesight. Even if their eyes are perfectly fine, better lighting will allow them to better see obstacles or find stuff that they’ve dropped on the floor. Also, depending on your location, make sure that there’s a working air-conditioner, electric fan, or heater in the room. If uncomfortable temperatures make it hard for us kids and adults to sleep, imagine how much harder it is for senior citizens.

Choose a Bedroom Close to the Bathroom

What’s even more ideal is for your senior to have their own bathroom attached to the bedroom. Again, the less they have to move around, the less chances of any injury occurring at home. The nearest bathroom, like the bedroom, should also be cleared of any unnecessary clutter as well as any objects that might fall and cause accidents.

Grab bars should be installed near the toilet for easier maneuvering, and if your budget allows, consider installing an elevated toilet. Cover the floor with generous patches of anti-slip pads. Place additional lighting in the bathroom. Even the simplest changes can make any bedroom/bathroom much safer for senior citizens.

Author -  Peter Mutuc

- By Peter Mutuc

Peter Mutuc is obsessed with natural, non-pharmaceutical solutions to insomnia and awry sleeping patterns, which comes in handy at his job as the web content writer for a small, Aussie startup mattress company called Onebed.


Making Your Home Senior Friendly,” National Aging In Place Council.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Smart Home Technology for Seniors

Smart Home Technology for Seniors

New systems can save you money and make your place more secure and safe.

As technology enters every part of our lives, there’s one area that is now getting a lot of attention: our homes. With automatic lighting, video cameras and thermostats, among other smart systems, we can make our homes safer, more secure and more cost effective. We can use technology to do our bidding. From the comfort of your couch, you can turn on and off the television and lamps, raise or lower the blinds, and instruct the thermostat to cool down or heat up your home.

Recently the Hartford and the MIT AgeLab identified the top 10 home technologies for homeowners age 50 and older. Technology can make life easier for anyone, but a safer environment that can save money can especially benefit older adults.

1. Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The latest instruments do more than monitor your home for smoke and carbon monoxide. They can detect just about anything in the air: carbon dioxide and monoxide, temperature, humidity, dust, soot, pollen, air staleness, pollution and other particulates.

When you’re home, smart detectors alert you with an alarm or loud recorded voice, and when you’re away, they communicate through your smartphone app. One detector system will contact assistance (including the fire department) if you’re not home.

2. Wireless Doorbell Cameras

In the past, to see who was knocking at your front door, you looked through a pinhole opening in the door (or peeked from the curtains at the front window). Now windowless doorbell cameras, more commonly known as video doorbells, use installed cameras to show you, whether you’re in the backyard, in bed or at work (using your smartphone), who’s at your door.

You can even communicate with the visitor, telling the delivery person, for example, to leave the package on the front porch. Some video systems have motion sensors that activate the camera. One system takes videos of your front door, so if a package goes missing, you can peruse the videos for information. Another system will alert more than one person, so your children, for instance, know what’s going on.

Video doorbells are especially good for those who live alone or homeowners who travel a lot.

3. Keyless Entry

Instead of using a key to unlock your home, you punch your personal code into the lock box. Not only does this eliminate the need for keys, which can be lost, it provides access for others, such as your children who may need to check on you, friends who volunteered to water your plants, or services (such as cleaning) that come when you’re not home. You can also use a temporary code and then change it when necessary.

4. Automatic Lighting

If you don’t like coming home to darkness, or if you want to turn on the lights while you’re away, you can now adjust your lights using your smartphone, a preset timer, a key fob, a remote control or an exterior motion detector. This technology is available for both outdoor and indoor lights, and you can use it when at home or away.

5. Smart Water Shut-Off Valves

When you’re traveling, you may have nightmares about arriving home to burst pipes and a flooded house. However, smart shut-off valves will automatically turn off your water if they detect a burst pipe. Plus, you will receive an alert, via your smartphone, wherever you are.

More expensive technology goes even further. One system automatically turns off the valve to the water main when certain weather conditions are forecast, such as freezing temperatures.

6. Smart Home Security Systems

There’s no need to get up in the middle of the night if you hear a strange noise in your backyard. Smart home security systems use motion sensors to detect if someone is near your doors or windows, and then transmit this information to you through your smartphone. You can even monitor your home when you’re away. More complex systems include surveillance cameras, lights and sirens, and allow you to turn on the lights when motion is detected, unlock your doors when a smoke alarm goes off, and start a video recording when a sensor is triggered. You can oversee the system yourself or hire a professional agency to do it.

7. Smart Outlets/Plugs

You can use these plugs on any outlet to remotely turn on and off any appliance. This convenience can save energy costs and improve security by letting you turn on lamps, for example, to make it look like someone is home. Some smart plugs even let you monitor your power consumption in real time.

8. Smart Thermostats

In addition to programming your thermostat for ideal comfort throughout the day, you can remotely control it. If you’re on your way home and want to warm up the house, you can increase the temperature using your smartphone.

The high-end smart thermostats even learn your habits and temperature preferences and can set up the ideal home environment without you having to lift a finger. Some let you know how much money you’re saving on energy costs by regulating the temperature.

9. Water and/or Mold Sensors

These sensors can detect water leaks and, in some cases, small changes in moisture levels that could indicate mold—whether from your refrigerator, toilet or washing machine. Place battery-operated sensors around the appliances you want to monitor. They will alert you via your web browser, smartphone app, text, email or phone call when leaks occur.

10. Smart Window Blinds

While raising and lowering window blinds is not a difficult chore, doing so remotely can save energy costs and add to your home’s security. Smart blinds can permit more or less sun—and warmth--depending on the weather. And closed blinds can deter possible burglars who might assume the house is occupied, even when it’s not.

With so much smart home technology available, you can choose to try out a few at a time or you can install a whole safe-home system that integrates all the pieces.


New Research By the Hartford and the MIT AgeLab Reveals Top 10 Smart Home Technologies For Mature Homeowners,” Nov. 29, 2016, Hartford Newsroom.

The Best Smart Home Security Systems of 2017,” Feb. 15, 2017, PC Mag.

8 Best Video Doorbells,” April 2017, Wiki.ez.vid.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Happened to Mom?

Warning signs that your aging parents may need more help to stay home

Warning signs that your aging parents may need more help to stay home.
By Hannah Draeger Ross

Time and obligations have a way of interfering with the best laid plans of family members. Trips to visit an aging parent or relative become more and more infrequent. Many of our parents or grandparents have relocated to states that offer climates more conducive to shoveling sand versus snow. Or adult children have moved to distant states for better jobs or opportunities.

Many of us have limited our travel planning for various reasons, including the difficulty of taking time off from work. Our daily responsibilities often take precedent to seeing aging relatives, and another year’s plans to visit slip away.

Finally, a visit is possible, and the door to their home is opened by a very frail parent.

“What happened to Mom?” is a question I hear quite frequently these days.

“I knew my mother needed a little help around the house, and we did hire an agency to come once in a while to assist with the housekeeping. But I had no idea she had changed so much,” I recently heard a daughter lament.

How do I know about these instances? I operate a senior service designed to offer resources and assistance to families. Many of my clients live hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their parents.

An elderly person may sound great on the phone while hiding health issues. Your loved ones don’t want you to worry about them. They might also be nervous that you will suggest they move into a retirement home. The majority of senior clients I work with want to remain in their own residences.

Or they may be unaware that they need help. Over time, older adults can gradually lose some of their functioning. Their hearing gets worse, they’re more tired, they can’t remember how to turn on the shower or the stove. Slowly, they withdraw from some of life’s daily chores.

When you visit an aging parent, use your senses to evaluate whether your mom or dad needs additional care.

Warning Signs Your Parents Need Help

Watch. Do they dress appropriately for the weather or the season? Does your dad have on a soiled shirt? Is his appearance disheveled? Is he well-groomed? Do his teeth appear clean? Does your mom continue to wear make-up? Is the car dented and dinged? Is the house clean and free of clutter? Is mail all over the counters and tables?

Listen. Can they carry on a general conversation and understand what you are saying? Are they speaking too loudly? Is the television blasting in the background? Do they call you by your name? Do they engage in phone conversations with telemarketers?

Smell. Does the home have an unpleasant odor? Is there outdated or spoiled food in the refrigerator? Is the garbage can overflowing? Is the heat or air-conditioning completely off? Do you smell a litter box or other pet odors?

Touch. Do they look healthy? Do they feel cold to the touch? Is their skin supple and normal in color? Are there any bruises or skin tears? Have they lost weight? Have they gained excessive weight? Has their eyesight failed?

Observe. Are there many medications and pills around? Are there different doctors’ names on pill cases? Has their personality changed? Do you see a big supply of liquor? Are bills marked “past due” or unopened? Is there an abundance of letters from charities or contests, indicating they have been too susceptible to every appeal that comes their way?

Be proactive. If you sense a problem, take action immediately. Discuss the issues you find with your loved ones. Set up doctor appointments and determine what services are needed.

How to Help

Once you have noticed concerning changes in a loved one that may be putting them at risk physically or financially, please think about respectful and practical solutions to help them. Many elder citizens want to live life in their own way and resist changing residence. They would prefer to bring the help they need into their homes rather than move.

Put yourself in their place. Would you want to leave your own home to stay with your kids? Or would you prefer to make renovations to your place to accommodate your changing health and safety issues? Do you enjoy your neighbors and your neighborhood? Is your garden your pride and joy? Do you have a beloved pet that would not be welcomed into assisted living?

Bringing care into the home extends the time your parent can stay in the comfort of their own residence with their memories and their precious belongings around them. Your parents deserve to live their lives to the fullest. Helping them stay in their own home can often provide a less expensive alternative to special-assistance housing. Sometimes, a caregiver simply needs to come by for a few hours a day.

Of course, these solutions for enhancing at-home care are intended to address the natural stages of aging, not dementia. If you suspect that your parent’s behavior points to the cognitive decline associated with dementia then trust your gut. Before you embark on improving their lifestyle at home, where they could be at risk, get your parent to an appropriate doctor for cognitive testing and diagnosis.

How to Change the Home

My senior clients have commented about how much life has improved for them because of the addition of a ramp or bath designed for handicapped use (please make sure proper training is included). Renovating a home for special needs can also prove a wonderful alternative to geriatric housing facilities. We “baby proof” homes for safety, but rarely “senior proof” them on the opposite end of life.

Installing “nanny cams” and proper security when a senior is at risk due to cognitive issues is a smart idea. I have one client who installed this sort of security for her father, along with a phone app, so she can routinely check to make sure he is OK.

It also makes sense to have someone assist with cleaning and cooking to help ensure your parents eat properly in a hygienic home. One of my clients found a retired nurse to move in with her parents. Lucky her! Caregivers can also drive your parents to the doctor, out to lunch or to visit an old friend. Many of my clients have stayed in their homes until the very end because they took advantage of care and services from family members, caregivers and hospice.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you are not able to be your loved one’s primary caregiver, take the proper precautions so that you have peace of mind. For example, make sure the caregiver and any other important people know to call you if needed. Clearly display a list of emergency contacts such as your parents’ or relatives’ financial planners, lawyers and doctors. List the medications they take and their pharmacy’s phone number. When you visit your loved one, get the name and number of one of their close friends or neighbors so that you can check with them if needed.

Finally, stop beating yourself up and schedule time for at least one phone call every week. Mom and Dad already know you have other responsibilities. In the meantime, let’s hear it for this wonderful, stubborn generation of “Golden Agers” who still watch Jeopardy, play cards with friends, sign up for dance lessons and believe that 90 is the new 80!

Author - Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA
- Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA

Hannah Draeger Ross, CSA, is the owner of Elderlinx Senior Services. She has been a geriatric homecare professional for over 15 years and resides in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Probate and Estate Planning Considerations for Seniors

Probate and Estate Planning Considerations for Seniors

Although estate planning may seem confusing and daunting, not having your affairs in proper order can create issues for the loved ones you leave behind and mean your wishes aren’t carried out as you desired. If you don’t have an estate plan, you need to create one as soon as possible. If you already have an estate plan, be sure your plan is up to date and accurate. This is especially true for seniors, who are older in age.

Probate and Estate Planning

Probate is the legal process for transferring your assets to your heirs and is based on your state’s laws. Some estate plans are sufficient on their own and don’t require probate; however, each state sets limits for estates that can be transferred without going through probate. For some states, the limit is only a few thousand dollars, but other states have limits up to $200,000.

Probate is also utilized as a public notice of death. Creditors can file claims against an estate to be paid, and the remaining assets of the estate go to the heirs. If a will doesn’t exist to name heirs, the state will decide how to distribute the assets.

Avoiding Probate

There are ways to avoid probate. Some people wish to avoid probate because of the cost of legal fees, which can cost thousands of dollars and are usually paid from the estate. It’s also a long process, lasting between six and 12 months. Those who appreciate privacy may also wish to avoid probate, as the proceedings are public.

However, you usually need a lawyer to avoid probate, which is sometimes more costly than the legal fees associated with probate. Trying to avoid estate taxes is another invalid reason for avoiding probate because the estate and gift tax exemption is $5.49 million per individual in 2017. A positive attribute of probate is that it’s a final decision for how your estate will be distributed, so it cannot be challenged in the future.

If you decide you’d like your heirs to skip probate, you can have your assets put in a revocable living trust for your heirs. According to Bankrate, “A trust is a legal document that authorizes a trustee, who can be the grantor (or the creator of the trust), to hold title to and manage assets.” A revocable living trust allows you to change or cancel the trust at any time, as long as you’re alive. Also, since a living trust doesn’t go through probate, it’s more private.

Bank accounts for individuals have FDIC protection against losses for up to $250,000 per account, which may not be enough for some people. However, a living trust increases the protection amount. Each beneficiary named in a living trust adds an additional $250,000 in protection, and that maxes out at five beneficiaries, bringing your total to $1,250,000. For six or more beneficiaries, the rules get a little more complicated.

Downfalls to a Living Trust

Note that a living trust has disadvantages. If you have a simple trust, the costs may not be too bad and can be less expensive than a professional executor. On the flipside, a complicated estate can push the cost up to $10,000, which is substantially more than probate. You could complete a living trust online; however, trusts can get tricky, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer. Also, unlike probate, there’s no time limit on a legal challenge to a living trust.

Lastly, if you forget to transfer the title of your property to a trust before passing, then the portion of your trust that gives away your home or car is worthless. A quitclaim deed is a common way to transfer property from one individual to another when no money is involved. As the name entails, a quitclaim deed releases any ownership claims an individual may have in a piece of property. “Families often use quitclaim deeds to transfer a property between family members, such as from parents to a child,” says

Be sure that you research and fully understand each part of estate planning, as well as living trusts and quitclaim deeds. Since each state’s laws can vary, know your specific state’s handling of estate planning, living trusts, and quitclaim deeds. Finally, you should speak to a qualified attorney for the most accurate and assured legal advice.

Author -  Julie Morris

- By Julie Morris

Ms. Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. Ms. Morris spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.


What Is a Quitclaim Deed?,”

California Quitclaim Deed Form,” DeedClaim LLC.

6 surprising facts about a living revocable trust” Bankrate.

Probate, Wills, Executors: Your Estate Planning Questions Answered,” Next Avenue.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Right, Before I Die

Photographer captures pictures and thoughts of people facing death

Photographer captures pictures and thoughts of people facing death.

Kim said that once she became ill, friends stopped coming by, as if they were afraid of catching her illness. “Most people are like that because they are scared, scared of I don’t know what.”

She was one of 20 people photographed and interviewed by Los Angeles artist Andrew George for his project, “Right, Before I Die,” about people nearing death. His work has been displayed at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, at Musea Brugge in Belgium and the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

George told California Healthline that he wanted to know his subjects’ perspective on their lives, their dreams and their deaths. In addition to asking them questions, he gave each a piece of paper to draw or write whatever they wanted.

Ediccia wanted to be remembered as someone who didn’t give up. Chuck said some of his favorite times were playing baseball with his brothers. Joe said he was the luckiest man in the world. Jack confessed that his true love wasn’t his wife, but rather a woman he’d met in Japan in the 1940s who had been sent to a relocation camp. Donald said he still loved his ex-wife, even though she had married another man.

Abel summed up his thoughts this way: “You have a one-way ticket. Don’t waste it!”

You can view more comments from the project’s participants at Right, Before I Die.


Saying Goodbye, The Right Way,” Sept. 29, 2016, California Healthline.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Famous & 65

Look Who’s Turning 65

May 2—Christine Baranski

May 2—Christine Baranski

The stage and screen actress is currently starring in The Good Fight following seven years in the same role of Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife. Baranski made her Broadway debut in Hide & Seek in 1980. For her next Broadway performance, in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, she won the 1984 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Other Broadway credits include The House of Blue Leaves, Rumors (for which she won her second Tony) and Nick & Nora. At the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Baranski starred in Sweeney Todd in 2002 (for which she won the 2003 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical).

In film, some of Baranski’s better known roles are as Katherine Archer in The Birdcage, Mary Sunshine in the musical Chicago, Martha May Whovier in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Connie Chasseur in The Ref and Tanya Chisham-Leigh in the hit musical Mamma Mia! She also played Cinderella's stepmother in the film adaptation of the musical Into the Woods.

Baranski was featured as Cybill Shepherd's sarcastic, hard-drinking friend Maryanne Thorpe in the CBS sitcom Cybill (1995-1998), for which she won an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series along with three other nominations. She has guest starred in several episodes of The Big Bang Theory, for which she has received two Emmy nominations.

From 2009 to 2016, Baranski played the role of Lockhart, a top litigator and senior partner of a Chicago law firm on the CBS series The Good Wife. For the first six seasons of the series, she was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. In the series’ spinoff, The Good Fight, which began airing on CBS and then CBS All Access in February 2017, her character joins another law firm after being forced to return to work.

May 14—David Byrne

May 14—David Byrne

The Scottish-born American musician was the founding member, principal songwriter and lead singer and guitarist of the American new wave band Talking Heads, active between 1975 and 1991. A multi-instrumentalist, Byrne is known for his distinctive voice. He has released his own solo recordings and worked with various media, including film, photography, opera, fiction and non-fiction. He has received Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe awards.

Byrne started his musical career in a high school band in Baltimore, where his family had moved when he was 8 or 9. In 1974, Byrne moved to New York City and founded Talking Heads with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, later joined by Jerry Harrison. The band released eight studio albums before going into hiatus in 1988 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, when they reunited to play four tracks, including "Psycho Killer" and "Burning Down the House."

During his time in the band, Byrne took on outside projects, collaborating with Brian Eno during 1979 and 1981 on the album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which attracted considerable critical acclaim due to its early use of analogue sampling and found sounds. Rei Momo (1989) was the first solo album by Byrne after leaving Talking Heads, and features mainly Afro-Cuban, Afro-Hispanic and Brazilian song styles. His third solo album, Uh-Oh (1992), featured a brass section, while his fourth solo album, titled David Byrne (1994), was a more proper rock record, with "Angels" and "Back in the Box" as its two main singles. For his fifth studio effort, the emotional Feelings (1997), Byrne employed a brass orchestra, and Look into the Eyeball (2001) continued the same musical exploration. Grown Backwards (2004) used orchestral string arrangements and includes two operatic arias. In 2008, Byrne and Eno reunited for his eighth album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

Byrne has also worked in theater and film. In 1981, he partnered with choreographer Twyla Tharp for a ballet, The Catherine Wheel. In 1991, he released a classical instrumental album, The Forest. His work has been extensively used in film soundtracks, most notably on Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 2008, Byrne released Big Love: Hymnal, his soundtrack to season two of the HBO TV series Big Love. He and Eno provided the soundtrack for the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

In 1990, Byrne founded the world music record label Luaka Bop, which includes music from Cuba, Africa, the Far East and beyond. In 2005, Byrne started his own internet radio station, Radio David Byrne. In addition to his other endeavors, he is known for his activism in supporting cycling and for using a bike as his main means of transport throughout his life, especially around New York.

May 18—George Strait

May 18—George Strait

The country music singer, songwriter, actor and producer is known as the "King of Country" and is considered one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time. Strait is known for his neotraditionalist country style and cowboy look, and for being one of the first and main country artists to bring country music back to its roots and away from the pop country era in the 1980s. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time, including 13 multi-platinum, 33 platinum and 38 gold albums. His best-selling album is Pure Country (1992), which sold 6 million copies.

Strait’s success began when his first single "Unwound" was a hit in 1981. During the 1980s, seven of his albums reached No. 1 on the country charts. In the 2000s, Strait was named Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music, was elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame and won his first Grammy award for the album Troubadour. In 1989, 1990 and 2013, he was named Country Music Association (CMA) Entertainer of the Year, and Academy of Country Music (ACM) Entertainer of the Year in 1990 and 2014. He has been nominated for more CMA and ACM awards and has more wins in both categories than any other artist.

In 2009, Strait broke Conway Twitty's previous record for the most No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart when his 45 No. 1 singles surpassed Twitty's 40. Counting all music charts, Strait has amassed a total of 61 No. 1 hits, breaking a record also previously set by Twitty, and giving him more No. 1 songs than any other artist in any genre of music. Strait is also known for his touring career when he designed a 360- degree configuration and introduced festival style tours.

Source: Wikipedia

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

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Investing According to Your Values

socially responsible investing stocks

An increasing number of funds align themselves with environmental, social and corporate governance ideals.

For those who want to combine their social values with their financial investments, socially responsible investing (SRI) would seem to be the perfect choice. Funds that invest according to a certain set of principles—such as environmental—are becoming more popular. At the outset of 2016, U.S. assets that use SRI strategies grew to $8.72 trillion, an increase of 33 percent since 2014, according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. Today SRI funds account for more than one out of every five dollars under professional financial management in the United States.

Mutual funds that invest in a range of SRI strategies are increasing: More than 45 new funds opened over the past five years. All told, 181 U.S. mutual funds and 39 exchange-traded funds practice SRI in one form or another, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance, including industry heavyweights BlackRock and Goldman Sachs Group. Much of that investment money comes from institutions, primarily pension funds, foundations and college endowments.

That number is expected to grow as millennials start to invest more as they get older. Several surveys have found that Americans born between the early 1980s and early 2000s are more committed than previous generations to socially responsible issues, particularly sustainability, when they invest, even if it means they don’t make as much profit.

Defining SRIs

SRI funds cover a wide range of issues, and while some funds emphasize specific areas—such as the workplace—others try to cover all the bases. The approach is often two-pronged: Avoid companies that sell items that can be considered harmful, such as firearms, alcohol, nuclear power, pornography or military weapons, while focusing on companies that promote positive actions. To determine if a company is socially responsible, investors use three main criteria—termed ESG.

1. Environment. Factors that focus on the natural environment can include reducing emissions or investing in sustainable or clean energy sources, while avoiding industries such as coal mining. Environmental concerns are the biggest reason that investors buy SRI funds, according to the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, with climate change and clean technology topping the list.

2. Social. How a company treats its employees, customers and suppliers can be a barometer of its commitment to social responsibility. This category includes equal employment and diversity, labor and human rights, and the exclusion of companies doing business in countries with repressive regimes or that sponsor terrorism.

3. Governance. When evaluating a company, some investors look at its leadership and diversity (are women and minorities in upper management?), how much it pays top executives, the regularity of audits, its internal controls and shareholder rights.

Beyond ESG is another popular category of SRI: faith-based funds for those who want their investments to match the principles of their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith.

For example, Catholics might avoid firms that support abortion, contraceptives or embryonic stem cell research. Muslims generally avoid “sin stocks”—alcohol, pornography or gambling.

Performance of SRI Funds

Whether SRI funds are as good an investment as non-SRI funds is debatable, with conflicting figures as to their worth. Certainly, some SRI funds outperform the market, while others lag behind.

Financial expert Jane Bryant Quinn, writing for AARP Bulletin, says, “Multiple studies show that indexes of ‘responsible’ stocks perform at least as well as the total market over the long term.”

A 2014 research study by the firm CDP found that corporations that actively manage and plan for climate change achieve an 18 percent higher return on investment than companies that ignore the issue, and 67 percent higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions, according to Forbes.

Where to Find More Information

Several websites and companies provide information on SRI funds.

Morningstar, an investment research company, tracks 207 stock and bond mutual SRI funds and has rated some 20,000 stock and bond mutual funds based on ESG factors, according to Jane Bryant Quinn, writing in the AARP Bulletin.

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) calls itself the “largest personal finance site devoted to socially responsible investing” and features over 10,000 pages of information on SRI mutual funds, community investments, corporate research, shareowner actions and daily social investment news.

Sustainalytics believes it’s “imperative for the global economy to become more just and sustainable.” The company is celebrating its 25th year in business supporting investors who incorporate ESG and corporate governance insights into their investment processes.

The Wall Street Journal thought the topic was controversial enough to warrant publishing two opposing viewpoints. The pro-SRI columnist pointed to several studies that backed his contention that SRI funds were good investments. Firms with greater shareholder rights outperformed the market, and companies with “high eco-efficiency—that generate the least waste relative to the value of their products and services”—also outperformed. The returns of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America—reflecting that employees were well treated—beat their peers by 2.3 to 3.8 percentage points a year from 1984 to 2011.

The opposing view listed reasons why an SRI was unlikely to produce superior returns. For example: the lack of consensus on how to define corporate social responsibility or how to construct a portfolio based on the concept, the “limited and often flawed” data used to assess a company’s social responsibility, and the fact that a company’s current record or reputation can be a poor predictor of its future behavior.

But many SRI advocates say that a better financial performance than average is not the point. They would rather get a smaller return in exchange for following their principles.

A Wide Range of Funds

SRI funds come in all shapes and sizes. One of the largest and most successful SRI funds is the Parnassus Core Equity Fund, which beat the S&P 500 over a 15-year period, according to the Motley Fool. The fund won’t invest in companies that generate a significant portion of their revenue from alcohol, tobacco, weapons, nuclear power, gambling or fossil fuels, or from operations in the country of Sudan.

Critics often take issue with SRI funds’ subjective judgment. For example, the Parnassus fund doesn’t invest in Coca-Cola stock because it sees its product as unhealthy, or Wal-Mart because the retail giant has drawn business away from the downtown core of many towns.

Parnassus also rejects Microsoft because of its "competitive dynamics." But the technology company is the second-largest holding in Vanguard's FTSE Social Index Fund, the biggest SRI index fund and one that includes adult entertainment stocks, something many other SRI funds avoid.

Going in a different direction is the SDPR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF, which invests in companies with a high ratio of women to men at the executive level, giving extra weight to gender diversity on boards of directors. Some studies have shown that companies led by women have done better than those helmed by men.

One SRI bond fund, the TIAA-CREF Social Choice Bond Fund, has beat the bond index by an average of 1.2 percentage points per year, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance. While 70 percent of its investments go to U.S. firms that have the best ESG ratings, 30 percent is for “impact investing.” An example of a measurable and positive impact is the fund’s investment in Topaz Solar Farm in California, which powers 160,000 homes. In terms of reducing carbon dioxide, this has the same effect as taking 73,000 cars off the road, according to one of the fund’s managers.

An example of a faith-based fund is Eventide Gilead, a Christian-based fund that promotes “biblically responsible investing.” This fund will not invest in alcohol, tobacco, pornography and companies that allow abortion. Apparently, upholding your religious principles pays off. Since Gilead’s launch in 2008, the fund has returned 14.9 percent annualized, which beats the S&P 500 by an average of 6.0 percentage points per year.


Is Socially Responsible Investing on the Rise?,” December 2016, AARP Bulletin.

Socially Responsible Investment – SRI,” Investopedia.

Does Socially Responsible Investing Make Financial Sense?,” Feb. 28, 2016, Wall Street Journal,.

What Is Socially Responsible Investing?,” Sep 18, 2016, Motley Fool.

7 Great Socially Responsible Mutual Funds,” March 2016, Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

The Changing Face of Socially Responsible Investing,” April 26, 2016, Forbes.

Learn,” Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Control Your Cholesterol

How to Control Your Cholesterol

Diet and weight loss should be your first strategy before taking statin drugs.

High levels of the wrong cholesterol can lead to heart disease, the primary cause of death for both men and women in this country. High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. While many people with high cholesterol levels are treated with drugs, mainly statins, medical experts say the first line of defense against high cholesterol should be changes in lifestyle—diet and exercise. Being overweight and eating certain foods can raise cholesterol levels.

What Is Cholesterol?

We need cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance that’s found in all cells of the body, to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that help us digest foods. Although our body makes all the cholesterol it needs, certain foods contain cholesterol and can raise our levels.

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins: both low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). It’s important to have healthy levels of both types. Too high a level of LDL, often called “bad” cholesterol, leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol, referred to as “good” cholesterol, carries cholesterol from other parts of your body to your liver, which removes it from your body.

The higher the level of LDL cholesterol in your blood, the greater your chance of getting coronary heart disease, while the more HDL cholesterol in your blood, the lower your heart disease risk.

New Research Focuses on Gene

The first medication in a new class of drugs that “silences” genes, inclisiran has been shown to halve cholesterol levels in patients at risk of cardiovascular disease, reported Science Daily.

Researchers from Imperial College London conducted the largest trial yet to test the safety and effectiveness of a technique, known as RNA interference (RNAi) therapy, which essentially switches off one of the genes responsible for elevated cholesterol.

The treatment is given twice a year, with or without statins, depending on the patient’s needs. Eventually, inclisiran could help to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke related to high cholesterol. However, because this is an early-phase study, and one of the first clinical studies on this type of drug, the study’s authors warn that more research is needed before the therapy can be marketed.

Source: “New 'gene silencer' drug reduce cholesterol by over 50 percent,” March 17, 2017, Science Daily.

A Good Diet

A recent study of the Tsimane indigenous people in the Bolivian Amazon, a forager-horticulturalist population, revealed that they have the lowest prevalence of coronary atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) of any population yet studied. An 80-year-old Tsimane had the same vascular age as a 50-year-old American. Tsimane diets are low in saturated fats and high in non-processed fiber-rich carbohydrates, and include wild game and fish. These indigenous people don’t smoke and are active for most of the day.

Our sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets work the opposite way and contribute to coronary heart disease. To keep our LDL levels low, medical experts first recommend a healthy diet:

The right fats. Fats are not necessarily bad for you; it just depends on which kind. Unsaturated fats are good for your heart and can help lower LDL. They include oils that come from plants such as canola, safflower, sunflower, olive, grapeseed and peanut. Other healthy fats include seeds, nuts, avocados and fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring and mackerel.

Saturated fats, which come mainly from animal products, raise your LDL level more than anything else in your diet and should be kept to a minimum—small portions every couple of weeks or so. These include meat and dairy products—egg yolks, red meat, shrimp, lobster, high-fat cheeses, butter and organ meats. As a rule, you should get less than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat. Choose leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy for healthier options.

The unhealthiest option is trans fats, which increase LDL and also lower HDL. This can be a fatal combination because it increases the risk of heart attacks. Trans fats are added to food products, such as fried foods, cookies and crackers, to make them last longer. Publicity about trans fats has pushed many food manufacturers to phase them out, but you should read the labels on food products to make sure they don’t contain trans fat.

More fiber. Soluble fiber, such as that found in old-fashioned oatmeal (not the quick-cooking kind), apples, prunes, beans and brown or wild rice, keeps your body from absorbing cholesterol and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Research shows that people who ate 5 to 10 more grams of fiber each day decreased their LDL.

Plant sterols and stanols. These substances are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and manufacturers have started adding them to processed foods, including margarine spreads, orange juice, cereals and granola bars. Because stanols and sterols are similar in structure to cholesterol, they help limit the amount of cholesterol your body can absorb.

Lose Weight

Being overweight tends to raise your LDL level, lower your HDL level and increase your total cholesterol level. Even losing just 10 pounds can reduce your LDL by up to 8 percent. Combining exercise with a healthier diet can get rid of the pounds and lower your LDL cholesterol. Medical experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day and choosing something you enjoy, whether it’s taking a walk, riding a bike or swimming.

Alcohol and Smoking

While research has shown that smoking cigarettes lowers HDL, moderate drinking of alcohol (particularly red wine) increases HDL. Of course, there are other heart-related reasons to quit smoking. This habit harms the lining of the blood vessels and increases the risk of blood clots, which contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). And too much drinking can lead to serious health problems, including high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke. For women, drinking moderately means one daily drink; for men 65 and younger, two drinks, and over 65, one drink. Because of the risks associated with alcohol, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking alcohol specifically to lower cholesterol.

The Next Step: Statins

Sometimes a good diet and losing weight are not enough to achieve healthy cholesterol levels. For example, an inherited condition can cause high LDL cholesterol. For those with this gene or for others who can’t reach the optimum cholesterol levels, taking a medication is the next line of defense. Statins, which inhibit the enzyme involved in the body's ability to produce LDL cholesterol, have proved to be the most effective cholesterol-reducing medication. In addition to lowering LDL, they also decrease triglycerides, which are another type of blood fat, and mildly raise HDL cholesterol.

There has been some concern over the years about statins side effects, including muscle pain, hemorrhagic stroke and myopathy. However, recent studies concluded that these issues affect only a small number of statin users and that statins’ benefits outweigh its harms.

In fact, statins have been recommended as a preventive tool for certain populations. The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends that adults age 40 to 75 who don’t have a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) but have one or more CVD risk factors (such as diabetes or hypertension) and have a calculated 10-year risk of a cardiovascular event of 10 percent or greater should use a low- to moderate-dose statin to prevent CVD.

Your risk is determined by comparing your information to a community-based population, which includes race, gender, age, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, use of blood pressure medication, diabetes status and smoking status.

For adults 76 years and older without a history of heart attack or stroke, the U.S. task force concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to determine whether the disadvantages outweigh the advantages of taking statins.


Statin Use for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Adults: Preventive Medication,” November 2016, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Indigenous South American group has healthiest arteries of all populations yet studied, providing clues to healthy lifestyle,” March 17, 2017, Science Daily.

Statins or not? New study aims to help doctors and patients decide,” Sept. 8, 2016, CNN.

Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol,” Mayo Clinic.

11 Tips to Cut Your Cholesterol Fast,” WebMD.

How to lower your cholesterol without drugs,” Oct. 27, 2015, Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

What Is Cholesterol?,” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors