Friday, November 29, 2019

Blood Test for Alzheimer’s up to 94% Accurate

New tests can detect dementia years before any outward signs appear.

Early brain changes due to Alzheimer’s disease may soon be detected with a simple blood draw in your doctor’s office, according to researchers. Doctors have been hoping for such a test for years — one that providers can administer in the office at a reasonable cost. They have been searching for an alternative to the $4,000 PET brain scan currently in use.

“We need something quicker and dirtier. It doesn’t have to be perfect” to be useful for screening, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.

Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, said that currently the best use for the tests was in research because analysts can select and monitor people in much larger numbers than was possible previously for federally funded studies.

“In the past year, we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in progress” on these tests, he said. “This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected.”

What You Can Do About Dementia

Although billions of dollars haven’t yet presented a promising pharmaceutical prevention for Alzheimer’s, there are things you can do to help avoid the disease. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Control vascular risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Eat a balanced diet — such as the Mediterranean diet — that's rich in vegetables, fruits and lean protein, particularly protein sources containing omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Be physically and socially active, including engaging in aerobic exercise.
  • Take care of your mental health.
  • Use thinking (cognitive) abilities, such as memory skills.

Alzheimer’s Prevalence

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which about 50 million people have worldwide. There is no cure, despite a massive effort to find one from dozens of research groups. One hypothesis is that too much brain damage had already occurred in past test subjects, and it was too late for them to get better. Another problem has been that people were enrolled in research groups who had issues other than Alzheimer’s, because the disease has been difficult to diagnose.

Research Specifics

The latest research, published in Neurology, uses mass spectrometry to measure two forms of amyloid protein in the blood: amyloid beta 42 and amyloid beta 40. All but 10 of the 158 study participants were cognitively normal, and each provided a PET brain scan used to detect Alzheimer’s. Scientists designated the blood sample and PET scan amyloid positive or negative, and the scan and bloodwork agreed 88% of the time. That was very good, but not accurate enough for clinical diagnosis.

Researchers decided to incorporate several known risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65, making age the biggest factor. Some people carry a genetic variant dubbed APOE4, raising their risk three- to fivefold. And sex is a factor, since two out of three patients are women.

When all of these factors were accounted for in the analysis, the accuracy of the blood test raised to 94%, with age and genetic status accounting for all of the improvement.

“Sex did affect the amyloid beta ratio, but not enough to change whether people were classified as amyloid positive or amyloid negative, so including it didn’t improve the accuracy of the analysis,” says first author Suzanne Schindler, an assistant professor of neurology.

Another factor in the improved percentage was that scientists had initially labeled some blood results as false positives when the PET scan didn’t detect any disease. However, some of these people tested positive on subsequent scans taken an average of four years later. Far from being wrong, the blood test had been able to identify those with Alzheimer’s that the esteemed brain scan had missed.

Clumps of damaging amyloid beta protein begin to form in the brain up to two decades before outward signs of the disease appear. Scientists can detect the level of the protein in blood and use that information to predict if it is accumulating in the brain.

A handful of research groups around the globe have recently reported similar success. Though the techniques vary slightly, all of the groups are reporting high accuracy and earlier diagnosis.

“Everyone’s finding the same thing … the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” said Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, whose work is supported by the U.S. government and the Alzheimer’s Association. He guesses a screening test could be ready as soon as three years from now.

What good is a blood test if there’s no cure for the disease, you may ask. Plenty, according to researchers.

“What people want most of all is a diagnosis” if they’re having symptoms, said Jonathan Schott of University College London. “What we don’t like is not knowing what’s going on.”

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit

Money – How to Keep Your Holiday Budget


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

How to Keep Your Holiday Budget

Stick to your holiday budget with these easy tips and start the New Year off right!

It’s so easy to get sucked into spending far more than you really wanted to around the holidays. Your granddaughter calls, tearfully explaining she can’t see you this year because she can’t afford the flight home. Your son says you’re assigned desserts for the big dinner, and you need to bring enough to feed 25. Oh, and remember how much everyone liked the cakes from Whole Foods? The kids expect a fresh tree to decorate at your house every holiday season and how could you disappoint them? And that’s before you get any gifts…

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much you can spend. If you’re living on Social Security or a pension, that’s your income. If you’re taking withdrawals from a retirement account, you need to figure out how much you can afford after food, shelter and transportation. A free budget tool like Mint is a great place to start. You don’t want to think you’ve kept a rein on your spending, only to find out the HOA dues haven’t been paid and you don’t have money for gas. Look at income and expenses, and don’t go into debt over the holiday. If that means you need to pay with cash, then do it. And if it means you have ten dollars to spread around and no more, no problem.

One benefit of aging is the realization that the holidays really aren’t about the gifts, but about the love. You may not realize that you give gifts of love all the time, and they’re free: smiles, hugs, listening quietly, waiting calmly, forgiving. Each of us has an ample supply of love to spread around at the holidays when family and friends may be at their most stressed and need some TLC. Offer your love generously around the holidays and get off to a great gift-giving start.

Bring Food, Duck Expensive Obligations

For someone with $10 to spend, we recommend food to share. Caramel popcorn and macaroni and cheese are two simple treats that won’t break the bank, and hardly anyone doesn’t like both of these goodies. You may not be Daddy Warbucks, but you’ll be warmly welcomed to the holiday gathering when you come bearing a delicious treat. If you want to go all out, mix up some salt dough (one part flour, one part salt, enough oil to bind) with the grandchildren or children. Roll it out and cut with cookie cutters, then make a hole for a ribbon to hang it on the tree. Simple, fun and a great social activity for all ages.

Now, for those obligations we outlined in the opening paragraph. It’s fine to tell your granddaughter that you’re sorry you won’t be seeing her this year, and you hope next year will be different. Ah yes, you say to your son, Whole Foods makes wonderful desserts but you’re going to bring homemade cookies this year. Instead of a fresh tree, there will be a nice bare branch you salvaged from a nearby cottonwood, and the kids can enjoy putting the ornaments on it just as much. They are welcome to bring you a little tree if they really want one. You have cleverly checked out some holiday books from the library, and you have saved old wrapping paper the kids can turn into a tree topper!

What about those gifts? The first recommendation is that if you’re traveling to a child’s house for the holiday, either order gifts online and have them delivered or give the grandchildren a dollar limit and take them shopping where they live. You won’t have to haul gifts around, returns will be easier if needed, and taking the kids to the stores gives you extra time to spend with them. Secondly, older children and adults may appreciate a donation to their favorite charity in lieu of a gift. You can stick to your budget and simply give them a card that notes your donation to such-and-such charity without specifying the dollar amount.

Here are some practical ideas for saving money on gifts:

  1. Did you know you don’t have to pay face value for a gift card? Check out Gift Card Granny or Raise to save some cash on everything from Southwest Airlines to Lowe’s. You may decide to buy some for yourself and save throughout the year.
  2. Use a cash-back credit card if you can pay it off the same month. Citi’s Double Cash card saves you 2%, or try the Discover It Cash Back card or Chase Freedom for rotating 5% off categories. Do not carry a balance; you’re better off using cash instead.
  3. Wrapping paper and ribbon can cost a small fortune. If you didn’t save some to reuse from last year, you may find the cheapest option is your local dollar store. You can also ask for paper bags at the grocery store and use that instead of wrapping paper. A little raffia instead of ribbon makes an elegant gift.
  4. Take a look around the house to see what you could reuse or repurpose. Extra wineglasses? Wrap up a couple as a gift. Ditto for kitchen gadgets you no longer use.
  5. Millennials may even award you green points if you repurpose their gift from a thrift store or eBay. You never know what treasures you’ll find, from a hand knit wool sweater to some toys for the grandkids.
  6. Low-price havens Five Below where nothing costs more than $5 and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for closeout merchandise can save you money if they have what you need.
  7. Make a delicious gift by putting the dry ingredients for your favorite bar cookies in a jar from the dollar store and wrapping in a ribbon with instructions for how to bake them. You could substitute soup makings, dried fruit, etc.
  8. Lower your cost by gathering your family now and agreeing to have a name draw for gifts, or only gifting the grandchildren and not the adults. Cutting down on the number of gifts can make a huge difference in your budget, leaving you more relaxed and able to enjoy the season.
  9. If you are artistic and crochet, paint, knit, woodwork or have any other skill, consider giving something you’ve made to family members and friends.
  10. The internet abounds with inexpensive, practical recipes for salt and sugar scrubs, bath bombs, soap and the like. They’re not difficult to make and you can have fun scenting them and trying them out yourself. They have the added benefit of getting used up, so they don’t add to clutter or that black hole of a kitchen drawer.
  11. Give babysitting certificates. Grandparents are often the best, most trusted sitters for grandchildren. Give your child a voucher for a full day of child care, or any amount of time you’d like. You get the added bonus of additional time with a young child.

Your goal this year is to wake up January 1st and have zero more debt than you did on December 1, which is hopefully none at all. Make it clear to yourself first and then the rest of the family that you’ll give out all the hugs they want, but your purse only opens for budgeted items. You may well find that in spite (or because) of your newfound boundaries, this holiday is your best one yet.

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit

Health – Blood Test for Alzheimer’s up to 94% Accurate


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Holidays with Blended Families

Tips for navigating holidays with stepchildren, your own kids, and an ex (or two).

Holidays can be equal stress and joy at the best of times. All at once, you may be trying to impress the in-laws with your cooking skills, put out the perfect presents, decorate like Martha Stewart, and take on a role in your faith community. What could go wrong? Add a divorce, remarriage or the death of a spouse into the mix, and the potential for anxiety can skyrocket. Even if you think you’re handling it all well, that view may not be shared by others. How can you get through the holidays and make them a happy (as possible) event for everyone involved? We’ve gathered various practical tips for easing you through the season.

  1. Plans. If you do nothing else, make a plan. Know well ahead of time who’s going to have the kids when, where they’ll eat the day’s big meal and who will be there. Your first job as a parent or grandparent is to remove any insecurity youngsters feel over where they’ll be going, when they’ll be going there, and what will be happening. This is a time to set aside acrimonious feelings and work with your ex-spouse for the sake of the kids. "The kids are uptight, because they're not sure where their base of security is," explains Donald A. Gordon of the Center for Divorce Education in Athens, Ohio. "If both parents have remarried, they don't have a place where they really feel at home.” Having a plan alleviates their anxiety. Communicate about gift giving and holiday plans with your former spouse and new partner. It’s a plus for the kids to hear you all communicating in a positive way.

  2. Gifts. Don’t be the parent who gets a call from her elated child about the new toy he just got from Dad … the exact same toy that is wrapped and waiting at your house. Have the kids write a list, and then you and your ex-spouse can work together to figure out how you’d like to divide up gift-giving. A parent can make a tradition of taking kids shopping to select appropriate presents for others that fit within a budget. And it’s a good idea to talk to kids and step kids about how to act when they get more gifts, or fewer, than other children. Parents need to remember that it’s unwise to try and compensate for a split by showering a child with presents. Pour down love, hugs and attention instead. Good values last a lot longer than material gifts. Finally, remember that you can only control what happens in your own house. You can choose how to react to an ex-spouse, but you can’t keep that person from acting badly.

  3. Flexibility. Remember the old saying that you can’t make all the people happy all the time. If you stay flexible, the holidays will go smoother for everyone. You may need to let an extended family member cook the holiday dinner or take over the task yourself. The kids may have to open presents from you the day or week before or after the big celebration. Although it can be wrenching, you’ve got to compromise with your ex to make everything work. 

  4. Priorities. Figure out what’s really important and let the rest go. What ought to matter most? Spending time with your children and extended family. Traditions are a wonderful way to provide continuity, but remember that the timeline can shift. If you decorate the tree or house together a week before the big event instead of two weeks ahead, that’s okay. If your child suddenly decides he doesn’t want to help you make holiday treats, that’s his choice (although it would be wise to ask him why).

  5. Sadness. You and your children may experience sadness or depression around the holidays, and that’s normal. Something has been lost, even if other traditions and people will fill in over time. Parents and grandparents can have a variety of activities at the ready to combat sadness: Mini golf, anyone? There’s a special exhibit at the museum! Who wants to make a paper tree with me? I’m baking cookies and they need to be decorated! It’s important to let kids know that sorrow is a normal emotion around this time of year, and that it will decrease over time. Acknowledge it, then try to move on. Watch a holiday movie or load up the car to see Christmas lights. 

  6. Giving. How can we capture the true spirit of the season? A great way for blended families to experience some togetherness is to volunteer. Decide as a family what you’ll do, then head out to the soup kitchen to serve a meal, buy and deliver gifts for a needy family, donate time to a local charity, bring food for homeless pets to an animal shelter … there is always need. If you don’t have extra money, choose to give a gift of time. It may even turn into a regular event.

  7. Expectations. The story of the new stepmom who made a huge dinner and expected all the kids to sit around the table with happy faces, only to have them texting and asking to be excused early, may ring true for many families. Turns out the kids preferred popcorn and a movie night where they could invite their friends, which is what they did at Mom’s house for Hanukkah. Ouch. As children, especially stepchildren, get into their preteens, it’s a good idea to ask them what they like to do for the holidays and adjust accordingly. Maybe this stepparent could have struck a deal where one night they have popcorn and friends over, and the next would be a traditional holiday dinner where the kids get to pick some of the dishes. Or maybe the kids just want a pizza night and the chance to enjoy time off from school. Lower your expectations—way, way down—and you might end up pleasantly surprised. 

  8. Impressing. You’re new to the family and you are going to impress the heck out of all of them! You’ll have the right outfit, stun them with your culinary talent, and buy gifts that will knock their socks off. The absolute best intentions can take a disastrous turn for the worse if your intent is to impress with perfection. Some might even call it flaunting. Instead, go for impressing with your thoughtfulness in small things, your kindness, your smile, your complete acceptance of your stepchildren, and your willingness to step back and let others show you their favorite holiday activities. It’s not always easy, but it’s an approach that will pay dividends for a long time to come. 

  9. Loyalty. Give your children a gift that doesn’t need wrapping by encouraging them to enjoy the other household during the holiday season. When you can say, “Have a great time with Dad and your stepmom! I hope you have lots of fun!” you are releasing the kids from guilt and worry about how you are going to handle it.

  10. Acceptance. You have no control over what your ex does with the kids. He or she may shower them with expensive gifts and meals, or the children may come back raving about how nice Dad’s new wife is to them. You may be angry and hurt inside but offer your children a calm parent who is willing to listen with equanimity. Swallow your emotions and give them something that costs nothing: love. Sometimes that means listening and letting them go off to spend time with friends when you had time together planned. Look at the long game instead of today and know that opinions can change. 

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sites for Safeguarding Essential Documents

Everyone should have important documents gathered in one place and accessible by someone they trust.

Everyone should have some basic documents drawn up, filled out and signed, ready for if, or when, they are needed. This is particularly important for older adults, who know their time is shorter and health needs more likely to force a sudden decision than their younger counterparts. While we may not like to face death, it’s going to come. We’re doing ourselves and our loved ones a disservice if we don’t prepare.

Where should we keep those important papers such as medical directives? You could stash them in a fireproof safe, you could keep them in a safe deposit box or you could store copies on the internet. Let’s say you suffer a heart attack. Will anyone be able to get in the safe to find out how you’d like care to proceed? And the same for a safe deposit box … will someone have the key, know your code and where to access papers in time to state whether or not you want to get certain treatments? Probably not. But what about our third alternative, the internet?

Internet apps are getting more sophisticated and are more accessible than physical places that require knowing where and how to get in. It’s a lot easier for someone to keep a note on their phone for the password and location of documents than to remember where a key is and what bank it matches, or to be sure that papers actually got in the safe and where it’s hidden in the house. Let’s take a look at some storage apps and what they can provide.

Six Documents Everyone Needs

Here’s the shortlist of documents every adult needs to prepare and store in an accessible place that a trusted confidant can locate:

  • Durable Power of Attorney: Gives one person the legal right to conduct matters on another’s behalf.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy: Honors your wishes even if you’re incapacitated. 
  • Living Will: Is an advance directive that puts forth your wishes for the end of life.
  • Do Not Intubate, Do Not Resuscitate: Outlines your desires regarding intubation and resuscitation when you can’t speak for yourself.
  • Advance Directives: Present instructions regarding your wishes for medical care at the end of life.
  • Will and/or Trust: Gives detailed written instructions regarding disposition of property and possessions when you die.

  • LifeSite is an online safe deposit box for just one person or the whole family. It works with iOS and Android phones, as well as Amazon Alexa voice assistant. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting an important document; LifeSite securely stores copies of identifications, health documents, passwords, birth certificates and more. 

    If you have to evacuate due to a natural disaster, you won’t need to run around gathering important documents. LifeSite can store copies of a passport, insurance details and more. 

    The app can also coordinate caregiving information, keeping everyone involved on the same page. And it’s perfect for storing durable powers of attorney, medical directives and the like for health care needs. 

    Security involves multiple layers of encryption and data chunking with the industry’s most sophisticated cybersecurity solutions. Your data is locked with your personal, unique key that’s rotated and scrambled. Third-parties conduct audits routinely to check for updates and improvements. 

    LifeSite is free for one user with up to 1 GB of storage and one backup contact. LifeSite Plus is $8.99 per month or $79.99 per year for five collaborators with share and edit privileges, 5 GB of storage, and five backup contacts.
  • Whealthcare is for individuals responsible for managing a family member’s finances and for financial advisors seeking to improve health and aging-focused financial planning capabilities. Co-founded by a physician-turned-financial-planner and a software developer, Whealthcare creates a “financial care taking plan.” During an initial assessment, the tool asks questions and, based on a client’s responses, identifies issues that client may face as they age. 

    A customized to-do list outlines documents, such as health care directives, that need to be in place and stored in the app. This allows trusted people to take over if the client becomes incapacitated. 

    A separate assessment determines whether a client is at risk for fraud, exploitation or just bad decision-making. The app provides suggestions about how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam. 

    Finally, a “proactive aging plan” gets clients thinking about difficult changes long before they might need to make them. This plan allows clients to discuss and document wishes related to their living situation, driving options and health care decisions.  You can also get in touch with a financial advisor who specializes in working with older adults. 

    The yearly charge is $39 for one person, $69 for a couple and $149 for a family plan that includes up to five members.
  • Everplans is a straight-up online vault service that has the added appeal of helping you through what you might want to store and how to do it. Find out what to do with social media sites, and get guidance about insurance policies, funeral arrangements, and pet care contingency plans. The site will also lead you through health documents, wills and the like. If there’s something highly private that you don’t want to upload, but do need someone to find, say, after your death, you can leave instructions on how to find it. 

    You are able to name trusted people and say when they are able to access the site. You may decide your spouse can look whenever needed, but your executor only gets access when you die. 

    An Everplan is available for $75 annually.
  • Dropbox is an app that’s been around since the dinosaurs, in computer terms. Billed as a smart workspace, it’s been used umpteen times to share work documents for remote employees, but it’s just as efficient at storing your important documents, photos and videos. You can import traditional files, cloud content, Dropbox Paper docs and web shortcuts. 

    Dropbox will give you personalized suggestions regarding file and folder organizing, so you spend less time searching for what you need. Dropbox is a great tool for those who know which documents they need and don’t need suggestions or specialized access abilities.< 

    Dropbox is absolutely free.

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit

Health – Blood Test for Alzheimer’s up to 94% Accurate


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Chatting Benches Fight Isolation

In Somerset, England, the local police found a way to combat social isolation.

Local police in the British community of Somerset wanted to do something to celebrate United Nations World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. While they certainly could have put out a memo about scams that victimize older adults, the police officers chose a project that was local, where they could see the change they’d enabled. Their “chat benches” debuted in local parks, where they encourage strollers to sit down and have a chat with a random stranger.

“The sign simply helps to break down the invisible, social barriers that exists between strangers who find themselves sharing a common place. We can all play a part…” according to a spokesman for the police department. “Simply stopping to say ‘hello’ to someone at the chat bench could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in our communities and help to make life a little better for them.”


In fact, nearly a fifth of older adults have contact with friends, family and neighbors less than once a week. In the United Kingdom, that amounts to nearly 9 million residents who are isolated with little social contact. In the United States, a 2014 survey on aging found 8% of older adults living alone who report feelings of loneliness. 

A sign on each chat bench welcomes those who would like someone to stop and engage in some conversation. 

“The Chat Bench is fantastic new initiative that I hope encourages those of all ages to start many more conversations in the future,” says Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens. “I encourage you to stop by and say ‘hello’. It really could make a huge difference to that person.”

New York Gets Chatting
On a related note, the city of New York is using city benches to change the way people view therapy and mental health. The Friendship Bench program offers peer-to-peer mental health conversations. 

"That's all it takes -- it takes one conversation to change somebody's life," Helen "Skip" Skipper, a peer listener, told "Good Morning America.”

Steve Lopez, another peer, added: "I don't need your name, I don't need to know where you live, I just need to know how you are doing. And talking is the best way to alleviate problems in the future.”

These peers aren’t certified therapists, just ordinary people who trained for the program, which started in Zimbabwe. There, grandmothers in the community were instructed about how to support and listen to others. 

"They told their stories and their depression symptoms went away, their anxiety went away," says Takeesha White, a therapist and the executive director of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in New York City. 

Could it be that chat benches and friendship benches are the answer for a healthier, happier society?

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit

Health – Blood Test for Alzheimer’s up to 94% Accurate


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Friday, November 1, 2019

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

November 3 - Godzilla, Japanese Film Monster

Before Jurassic Park, before Jaws, there was a gigantic monster fit to terrify kids glued to their parents’ black and white television set: Godzilla. Little did we know that Godzilla represented the United States and nuclear weapons. Less than a decade after the nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese created the prehistoric sea monster who is woken up and gets its energy and power from nuclear radiation.

Who can forget Godzilla’s distinctive roar, reproduced in several comics as Skreeeonk!. The original sound was made by rubbing a glove coated with pine-tar resin across the string of a contrabass and then, in a show of technical contrivance, slowing down the playback. Special effects were pretty basic in 1954, too. Godzilla was filmed using an actor in a bodysuit. The original suit, made out of a wire and bamboo body cavity covered in fabric and cushions coated in latex rubber, weighed more than 220 pounds. Not surprisingly, several of the actors who portrayed the early monster suffered under the suit’s weight, lack of ventilation and poor visibility. One actor was known to have endured oxygen deprivation, near-drowning, concussions, electric shocks and cuts to his legs from the wires that wore through rubber padding. Not an easy job!

Based loosely on a combination of an alligator, Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus and Iguanodon, Godzilla’s skin texture mimics the keloid scars common to survivors of Hiroshima. He (actually “it” since only American films give the monster a male gender) is portrayed as anywhere from 164 to 400 feet tall. Japanese directors wanted Godzilla to be just tall enough to peer over the highest buildings in Tokyo, but still small enough to hide among them. As the height of the buildings grew over time, so did the height of their film star.

Godzilla is now a cultural icon, recognized and imitated all over the world. In 2004, the character got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary film, Godzilla: Final Wars. Scientists have debated, tongue in cheek, over the monster’s true ancestry, and an asteroid belt is named after the Japanese rendition of its name, Gojira.

November 8 - Rickie Lee Jones, singer

Rickie Lee Jones grew up in Arizona, the daughter of a songwriter, painter and trumpet player father who worked as a waiter to pay the bills, and a mother who was raised in orphanages. The family moved to Olympia, WA when she was ten, and her father promptly abandoned them. After running away to her father’s at the ages of 14 and 15, Jones dropped out of high school as a junior, took the GED and went to college in Tacoma.

Her career found her playing coffee houses and bars in Los Angeles at the age of 19, and it didn’t take her long to get noticed. Two years later she was playing with Alfred Johnson in Hollywood. A year later, she sang “Easy Money” over the phone to Little Feat’s Lowell George. It turned out to be the only single off his last album before his death. In the same year, a demo tape caught the attention of an executive at Warner Bros. Records and several others. Jones signed up for a five-album deal.

Over the course of a long career, Jones recorded a bevy of musical styles: rock, rhythm and blues, blues, pop, soul and jazz. Her biggest hit was Chuck E.’s in Love, which made it to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Jones became a two-time Grammy Award winner and garnered a place on NPR’s list of the 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women with Pirates, written after a painful breakup. She toured with the likes of Lyle Lovett, appeared on two covers of Rolling Stone magazine (one of them photographed by Annie Liebovitz), acted for television, and spent time bringing up daughter Charlotte and indulging in her favorite hobby, gardening, at their home in Tacoma, WA.

In 2001, Jones organized a web community dubbed “Furniture for the People” that embraces social activism, bootleg exchange and liberal politics.

November 14 - Condoleezza Rice, Political Scientist, Diplomat, Former Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice says racial segregation during her early years taught her to be “twice as good” as non-minorities. Her parents enrolled her in classes for French, ice skating, ballet and music when she was three years old. Whatever white people did, their daughter was going to do, and better. Rice says,”My parents were very strategic, I was going to be so well prepared, and I was going to do all of these things that were revered in white society so well, that I would be armored somehow from racism. I would be able to confront white society on its own terms.”

Indeed, Rice has had a remarkable career, becoming the first black female Secretary of State after serving as the first woman in the position of National Security Advisor. She has served on the boards of multiple Fortune 500 companies, and even partnered on piano with talents as diverse as Yo-Yo Ma and Aretha Franklin. Rice rose to tenured professor at Stanford, has had an oil tanker named after her, and gained the ear of President Bush.

November 29 - Joel Coen, Filmmaker

Joel Coen is half of the talented Coen Brothers filmmakers duo that includes younger brother Ethan. There genre-busting work include Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Although they write, direct and produce films jointly, they take divvy up the marquee with Joel receiving credit as director and Ethan as producer. They’ve also written several films which they didn’t direct. The list includes Unbroken, Bridge of Spies, and many movies that didn’t achieve box office success.

Their films address a wide variety of subject matter. The Man Who Wasn’t There, a 2001 film noir, follows a chain-smoking barber who finds a way to blackmail his wife’s lover so he can invest in a dry cleaning business. Skip a year earlier to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and you’ll find a movie based loosely on Homer’s Odyssey that employs offbeat humor and a bluegrass soundtrack that won audiences over.

Click below for the other articles in the November 2019 Senior Spirit

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

How Drinking Alcohol Affects Lifespan

Can moderate consumption lengthen life, or does drinking alcohol mean you won’t live as long?

We all know that drinking too much alcohol can be bad for our health. But what is “too much,” and is it only liver disease we have to watch out for? A major study done for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provides some answers.

The study suggests that light to moderate drinking may have benefits, although heavy drinking definitely leads to poor outcomes. Data was examined from 333,247 U.S. adults who self-reported how much they drank over the 12-year period starting in 1997 and ending in 2009.

They were grouped into one of six categories:

  • Lifetime abstainers
  • Lifetime infrequent drinkers
  • Former drinkers
  • Current light drinkers (fewer than three drinks per week)
  • Moderate drinkers (between three and 14 drinks per week for men, and seven or fewer drinks per week for women)
  • Heavy drinkers (more than 14 drinks per week for men, and more than seven drinks per week for women)

Over the study period, 34,754 participants died. Of these, 8,427 were the result of cancer., 6,944 were due to heart disease, and another 2,003 were attributed to cerebral events. Men who were heavy drinkers had a 25% increased risk of death overall. However, women who qualified as heavy drinkers didn’t exhibit a higher mortality risk, although the reason for this disparity was unknown.

The study reinforced what other research had found: Drinking too much alcohol at once or over a long period of time can result in heart problems, liver disease and even cancer. Alcohol-related deaths total about 88,000 annually in the U.S., making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death.

Binge Drinking Up in Older Adults

A 2019 study found that approximately one older American in 10 binge drinks. Those 65 and older are putting down five or more drinks at a time for men and four for women at home, in bars, in restaurants and in senior living centers.

"When we think about binge drinking, the image we usually think about is younger adults or college students, but this is in fact a growing trend in older Americans," said Dr. Tara Narula on "CBS This Morning" on July 31, 2019. "It's been under-reported in both the scientific literature and in the media, but the problem is that the alcohol has a very strong effect on people who are older. They're more vulnerable to the health problems than even a younger population.

"Currently, around 10.6% of older Americans are binge drinkers. In the previous decade, it was anywhere from 7% to 9%. So, that number is growing. Also growing: just a general increase in alcohol use and any sort of harmful alcohol use.”

Dr. Narula notes that binge drinking can be more dangerous for older adults than their younger counterparts. Older adults are more sensitive to alcohol and can get impaired more easily. They may also have chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease that could be aggravated by drinking heavily at one time. It can also spur new problems, such as gastritis or certain cancers.

"Really no American who is older should be drinking more than three drinks a day,” says Dr. Narula. “If you have some sort of chronic disease or are on prescription meds, you should speak to your doctor, and they may recommend something even lower. Low-risk drinking is less than two drinks a day for a man, or one drink a day for a woman.

"It's really important that doctors screen for this and also educate about it. A lot of these people may be at home drinking alone. Nobody really knows what's going on. The problems may be attributed to, 'Oh, they're getting older, that's why they're confused and falling.' It can be a little silent unless we actually look for it.”

Protective Effects

On the flip side, moderate drinkers (both men and women) were found to have a decreased risk of mortality. They were 13% to 25% less likely to die from all causes, and 21% to 34% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Men and women who were light drinkers also exhibited a decreased risk of dying.

“Our research shows that light to moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease, while heavy drinking can lead to death,” says lead author Dr. Bo Xi from the Shandong University School of Public Health in China. “A delicate balance exists between the beneficial and detrimental effects of alcohol consumption."

Researchers found a J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality. That is, complete abstainers were more likely to die from certain causes than light or moderate drinkers, but much less likely to die than heavy alcohol users. This is even after statistical approaches addressed common faults found in previous studies, such as lumping those who no longer drink due to poor health with those who simply choose to abstain.

“We have taken rigorous statistical approaches to address issues reported in earlier studies,” says co-author Dr. Sreenivas Veeranki from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Heart Problems Reduced

A 2015 study found that drinking up to seven alcoholic drinks (4.4 ounces of wine, about 11 oz. of beer or just under a shot of liquor) a week could protect against heart failure. Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, analyzed 15,000 participants. Men who had up to seven drinks weekly reduced their risk of heart failure by 20%, while women who drank up to the same amount had a 16% lower risk of heart failure.

In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health confirms that over 100 prospective studies link moderate alcohol use with protection against stroke, heart attack, heart disease, sudden cardiovascular death and other cardiovascular conditions. How is this possible?

Wine, and possibly other alcoholic beverages, may increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol.

"The grape skin provides flavonoids and other antioxidant substances that protect the heart and vessels from the damaging effects of free oxygen radicals produced by our body,” explains Prakash Deedwania, chief of the cardiology division at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. "The strongest evidence is in favor of wine, but some evidence recently showed beer and other types of alcohol may provide the same benefits related to increasing good cholesterol.”

The Harvard School of Public Health posits that the formation of small blood clots that can block arteries in the heart, neck and brain may be prevented by moderate alcohol consumption.

Diabetes Risk Lowered

While heavy drinking is linked to an increased risk of diabetes, it’s possible moderate alcohol intake could lower the chances of getting the condition. A 2005 study found moderate drinkers were 30% less likely to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes compared to both nondrinkers and heavy drinkers. A 2010 study from the Netherlands confirmed the finding.

It’s possible that moderate drinking increases insulin sensitivity, since it encourages levels of adiponectin, a protein that helps regulate glucose levels.

Better Memory

A June 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found a link between moderate alcohol consumption and improved memory and thinking skills. Women who were 70 and above made the most gains. Another study that year found older people who were moderate drinkers displayed a higher episodic memory (the ability to recall events) than their peers, and had a larger hippocampus, a region of the brain involved with memory.

"For most older persons, the overall benefits of light drinking, especially the reduced cardiovascular disease risk, clearly outweigh possible cancer risk,” according to Giovanni de Gaetano, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed in Italy.


But before you pop the cork on that bottle of Cabernet, make sure you’re not at risk for alcohol addiction or an alcohol use disorder, such as binge drinking. You’ll lose any benefits that light to moderate consumption might bestow.

Another research team found that health benefits related to alcohol consumption may even be “overestimated.” Among 18,000 participants, mortality benefits were limited to men aged 50 to 64 and women 65 and over who were moderate or light drinkers.

Researchers hypothesized that other studies made inappropriate selections in their participants. “The effect of such biases should therefore be borne in mind when evaluating findings from alcohol health studies, particularly when seeking to extrapolate results to the population level,” they warned.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2019 Senior Spirit

Print Friendly Version

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Reverse Mortgage: Should You Get One?

New regulations are changing who might benefit from a reverse mortgage.

Aging TV stars hawk them. Financial gurus disdain them. Marketing specialists extoll their virtues. Who’s right about reverse mortgages? As with most things in life, it depends. However, recent regulatory changes protect the consumer more than in the past and make certain older adults viable candidates. And as the industry responds to the new rules, products are emerging that may appeal to a higher net-worth customer than before.

Reverse mortgages are exactly what they sound like: mortgage products that allow people with enough home equity to draw it back out (to take payments instead of making them) of their residence while aging in place. Reverse mortgages can give older adults enough added income to thrive instead of just barely get by.

There are three main types of reverse mortgages:

  • The most common variant is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM). It was created in 1998 to assist older Americans who wanted to age in place but needed more income than what they got from other sources. These loans are controlled by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), an offshoot of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), whose main function is insuring mortgages against borrower default. As such, loans max out at $726,525, and all borrowers must pay insurance premiums of .5% (for loans of 60% or less of appraised value) to 2.5% (the cost if the loan is more than 60% of value). You can take the proceeds as fixed monthly payments, a lump sum, a line of credit or a combination of these.
  • Many states allow proprietary (private) reverse mortgages that aren’t federally regulated. As such, homeowners don’t have to pay mortgage insurance premiums. The catch is that they may carry higher interest rates. However, these loans may cover higher-value homes or allow buyers to access a higher percentage of their equity.
  • Often offered by government agencies at the state and local level or nonprofit organizations, single-use reverse mortgages carry restrictions on how they may be used. They may be slated to pay off property taxes, catch up on homeowner association (HOA) fees or complete needed repairs. The lender must approve how the loan will be spent before it’s approved. These loans don’t require mortgage insurance and are typically for smaller amounts limited to what is needed to achieve their specific purpose.

Who Can Get a Reverse Mortgage?

To qualify for an HECM reverse mortgage, you must be at least 62 years old and have significant equity in your primary residence. You must be able to continue paying property taxes, HOA fees, maintenance, insurance and other costs of homeownership. You also can’t owe any federal debts, such as taxes.

The dwelling must meet a few requirements, too. It can be a single family residence, a condominium approved by HUD, or a multi-unit dwelling with up to four units, as long as you live at least six months of the year in one of them.


Just like when you take out a mortgage or refinance your home, there are upfront costs for any reverse mortgage product. For an HECM, that starts with an origination fee to cover the lender’s operating expenses. Lenders can charge $2,500 or 2% of the first $200,000 of your home’s worth plus 1% of the amount over $200,000. Lenders may waive or reduce origination fees.

You’ll pay 2% of the home’s appraised value upfront for the mortgage insurance premium, but it doesn’t stop there. You’ll be charged .5% of the outstanding loan balance annually, but this charge doesn’t get taken out of your available loan proceeds. Rather, it accrues over time and is paid when the loan is called due and payable.

An appraisal fee is charged depending upon the region, type and value of your home, but it averages $450. You generally have to pay it in cash before the loan is signed. The appraiser has to certify that your home is structurally sound and complies with home safety and building codes.

You can pay for closing costs with loan proceeds, but they need to figure into your decision of whether or not a reverse mortgage makes sense for you. Fees listed below are averages and may be more or less.

  • Credit report fee: $20 to $50
  • Flood certification fee: $20
  • Escrow, settlement or closing fee: $150 to $800
  • Document preparation fee: $75 to $150
  • Recording fee: $50 to $500
  • Courier fee: $50 or less
  • Title insurance varies, but rises with the size of the loan
  • Pest inspection: under $100
  • Survey: under $250

Servicing fees are monthly costs the lender charges for loan administration. They may be fixed or calculated into the interest rate of the loan. Federal regulations cap the fee at $35 per month, which will normally amount to several thousand dollars over the anticipated life of the loan, depending on the borrower’s age and life expectancy.

Use a reverse mortgage calculator to get an idea of what total costs might be.

Who Is a Poor Candidate for a Reverse Mortgage?

There are some instances where a reverse mortgage won’t be able to meet your goals and needs. If you have high medical bills and may not be able to continue living in your home, seek out a different solution. The loan will become due in full when you no longer live at your primary residence, so moving to a treatment facility or assisted living for more than 12 months will trigger repayment.

You may be moving soon. No matter what the reason, if you’re thinking about changing residences in a few years, then the costs of a reverse mortgage generally outweigh the benefits. You’re not prohibited from moving, but if a homeowner voluntarily vacates the property, he or she will have six months to repay the loan in full.

The upfront costs are more than you can afford to pay. If you can’t cover property taxes, homeowners insurance premiums and home maintenance costs, you won’t qualify for a reverse mortgage. In that situation, you might want to check into property tax deferral programs for older adults or a program to help low-income homeowners with repair expenses.

You need to think about the consequences if you live with someone who is not your spouse. If you die, sell your home or choose to move out for more than a year, the loan becomes due. Friends, relatives and/or roommates could be forced to move out. You can list boarders on loan paperwork, but if they’re younger than 62, they can’t be borrowers.

If you want heirs to keep the home. When a borrower dies, the loan must be repaid or the house will be sold to generate the cash. Your home can be passed down to heirs, but it will carry a mortgage balance. In many cases, heirs don’t have the funds to pay off the home, and they may not qualify for a mortgage.

When a Reverse Mortgage May Be the Right Answer

Many protections have been put in place since 2014 to correct problems giving reverse mortgages a bad name. While it’s always vital to evaluate any financial product thoroughly, there are circumstances that may make a reverse mortgage the right answer for you.

You’re not planning to move anytime soon. Nothing prohibits you from moving if you have a reverse mortgage, but the numbers don’t add up. Just like when you refinance your home, it only makes sense if you’ll be staying there a while. And if you move, you’ll have to repay the mortgage.

Your spouse is 62 or older. You can still get a reverse mortgage if your spouse is younger, but he or she can’t be a borrower. New laws protect a non-borrowing spouse in the event of your death, but that person won’t be able to continue to receive loan proceeds. It’s not a problem if there’s plenty of money to last until the spouse dies, but it can create a hardship to someone dependent on the monthly income stream or line of credit a reverse mortgage can provide.

You can afford the ongoing costs. If you fall behind on property taxes, homeowners insurance or home maintenance, your lender can call the loan due. County authorities supersede lenders, and they’ll step in if your property taxes aren’t paid for a long enough time. They can place a lien on the residence, take possession and sell it to recoup taxes.

You need a solution to long-term financial problems. Just to get your foot in the door, you must own your home outright or have substantial equity. Hopefully that means you’ll use funds wisely and make them last.

You have no plans to bequeath your home. Sure, you can still put it in a will, reverse mortgage or not. But your heirs will have to pay off the mortgage, and they may choose to let the house go, or simply may not have the needed funds or the ability to qualify for a mortgage.

New Products Entice Different Crowd

Lenders are taking aim at homeowners with property values above $700,000 as they roll out reverse mortgage products with fewer restrictions, lower initial costs and more money available to draw down. These jumbo proprietary loans have lofty highs of $2.25 million, but like their little HECM brothers, borrowers will never owe more than the value of the home.

“If using the equity in your house will enable you to travel or live where you want to live and not spend the whole retirement stressing about running out of money, it’s really a wise use of the equity,” says Jeremy Kisner, senior wealth adviser at Jeremy Kisner Wealth Management in Phoenix.

Another use for the high-end products is to create an income stream so homeowners can avoid digging into their stocks when the market goes down. With the bull long in the tooth, many investors are looking for protection, and this is one way to do it. Several lenders are developing products with variations to appeal to different clients.


No matter your situation, perhaps the most important thing is to make sure you understand exactly how a reverse mortgage will work in your situation. If you’re interested in a HECM, start educating yourself at the HUD websiteReverse mortgage interest rates closely mirror those of conventional mortgages, but just as with a conventional loan, be sure to check out a number of lenders and compare rates and total costs. If they can’t or won’t answer your questions so that you understand the terms, go somewhere else. And be sure to check out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or refinancing against the reverse mortgage to see which will work best for you.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Print Friendly Version

Monday, October 28, 2019

Five Lifestyle Changes For Low Budgets

When you convert to a fixed income, you may suddenly need some lifestyle changes to stay in your budget.

Money that you thought would last can get eaten up in retirement, or your nest egg may not hatch the dollars you need to get you by. Many retirees live on Social Security alone, and often find it doesn’t stretch very far. But instead of worrying over how you’ll get by, check out these five proven methods to make your money go a lot further.

1. Volunteer more of your time. 

This sounds counter-intuitive because you won’t get paid, but it works. Most people fill up free time with hobbies. But gardening (fertilizer, plants, potting soil, containers, gardening tools), golfing (greens fees, outfits, shoes, clubs, lunch at the course) and other pursuits can wreck your budget. Even cheap entertainment, such as early-bird specials, can cut into your financial plan. Volunteering, on the other hand, takes up your time without cost to you and can offer added benefits. You’ll make new friends, learn skills and get the kind of satisfaction that only comes from giving.

Visit VolunteerMatch to find opportunities in your community. You can also try Volunteers of America to help those in need, or check with your local animal shelter. It’s easy to feel isolated and deprived on a tight budget; volunteering is a great way to get some perspective.

Rent Out a Room

What if your house is too big for you, but you can’t bear (or just don’t want) to move? Having a housemate (or two!) is a movement that’s sweeping the country as the cost of renting continues to rise. Older adults may be especially glad to have someone else living with them for added security and to make the house a bit livelier.

You can put up a free ad on your local Craigslist under “Housing — rooms and shares,” but you don’t always know exactly what you’re getting. It can be hard to find just the right rental agreement, and what do you do if the tenant doesn’t pay on time?

Enter Silvernest, a company that manages all the tricky bits for you. Silvernest will match you with potential housemates that have been background checked, and they’ll handle the home share agreement as well. Or you can fill out a profile to become a renter in the home of another adult. Adults of all ages may host or rent to older adults, so if you prefer the energy of a young family, great, and if you’d rather be around one quiet older adult, the folks at Silvernest can make that happen, too. The site says the average renter will save $9,000 a year, and the average host will bring in $10,000.

Switch Homes for Vacation

You may have decided that vacations are a thing of the past as you adjust to a new budget, but not so fast. Your biggest expense is usually lodging, and you can avoid it entirely by swapping homes with someone else. You may think that’s way too risky, but you probably haven’t checked out sites such as Home Exchange where interested parties sign up and are verified. You can take a virtual tour of homes that interest you, or even plan a non-reciprocal exchange. Even renters can check out this service.

Still a bit dubious? Check out travel blogger Rick Steves’ article on house-swapping tips aimed at a European stay, but applicable anywhere. He guides you to several sites and offers invaluable information borne of experience.

2. Sell your extra car.

Many couples, in particular, have two cars out of habit, not necessity. At an average $6,814 a year, transportation is typically a retiree’s second-largest expense. Sell (or donate) one of the cars, and watch your gas bill and insurance costs plummet. You may talk with your spouse more as you drive each other to events, or download the Uber app so you’ll always have a ride. Heck, you may even decide to give driving for a ride-share service a try!

If you’re already down to one car, consider giving it up. Check out public transportation (bus, light rail, train), or walk and bike to more destinations. You’ll be surprised how much you can save.

3. Downsize your home. 

Since housing is the biggest expense for most retirees, it’s a good place to look when you need to pare down costs. You can lower mortgage or rent payments, or get a chunk of change back out of a home that is paid off. And with a smaller space to heat, cool and maintain, utilities should drop as well. That’s why 42% of Americans are planning to downsize in retirement, according to brokerage TD Ameritrade. It’s easy to get a preview of what’s available in your neighborhood by searching a real estate site such as Zillow or

You might also decide to stay where you are but take out a reverse mortgage. Check out the Reverse Mortgage article for more information.

4. Relocate where living expenses are cheaper. 

Before deciding to move, investigate state taxes on retirement income, sales tax, the cost of a home or rental, and whether or not you like the lifestyle your new area would offer. Make sure you know what you’re getting into, as costs vary considerably. Some states have no income tax, but their property tax can be hefty. Check out some of the best states to retire in to get started. You can also find state income tax rates that run from nothing to almost 13%. And remember to calculate the cost of moving into the equation.

5. Get a job.

You may have to go back to work in spite of taking other measures to help bolster your budget. Be sure to keep an open mind about what you want to do and for how long. You may find work totally unrelated to your career that keeps you happy and brings in some extra income. Perhaps you’ll enjoy selling tools at a home improvement store, teaching classes at a quilt shop or working in an office environment. It can be refreshing to have coworkers, help customers get what they need and feel a sense of importance and responsibility.

On the other hand, you may choose to start your own business, such as selling on eBay or turning your craft habit into an Etsy store.

You may decide to make one, none or all of the changes above to put more money in your pocket for retirement. Talk it over with a trusted professional if you need a second opinion about which direction to take, because it can be difficult to make some of these decisions on your own. Remember, you can try out giving up a car by taking public transportation for a month before you sell the old Toyota, or spend some time camping or at an Airbnb in a new state before you commit to moving. Who knows? You may end up liking your new life better than the old one as you make new friends and develop skills you never knew you had.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2019 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Print Friendly Version

Friday, October 25, 2019

Top Dating Sites for Older Adults

Baby boomers have more choices than ever for finding romance or just making a new friend.

Dating can be a real pain at any age. Trying to find a romantic partner in your social group can be hit or miss at best. It can be even more difficult for baby boomers who may not get out as much as a younger crowd, or who have a fixed social circle without potential matches.
Technology has an answer.

Dating app developers have taken note of the legions of older adults who want to date, and they’ve responded with sites that are just for those of a certain age. After all, older adults often have a clearer view of who they are and what they want, whether it be marriage, casual romance or a friend to share dinner with now and then. The spark of a new love interest can be just as bright at 70 as 17, and older adults are willing to use technology to help kindle the fire.

Romance Scams Aimed at Older Adults

Scammers are everywhere, and older adults seeking romance may become easy prey if they’re not savvy. Women in particular need to be aware that the picture of the handsome older man in the profile photo may be a total fake, and the profile itself was invented to lure in women. Guys, this can happen to you, too, so read on.

Scammers may be overseas or in the U.S., but they all want access to your money. You may be thinking that you’re WAY too smart to fall for that baloney, but don’t be so sure. Some extremely intelligent people have been ashamed to admit that they got conned. The scammers are highly skilled at pulling at your heartstrings, making you feel loved before you’ve met. (And you never will meet). Never, ever give out bank account information or send money to ANYONE you meet online, especially that incredibly sensitive, romantic person who only wants to be with you. Following are some clues about who may be a scammer:

First, check out the profile photo. Is the person good-looking and fit? Holding a beer or glass of wine, wearing sunglasses? Scammers use stock photos of models to hook their mark. Consider limiting emails to five or so before setting up a meeting. Someone overseas doesn’t want you to know it’s impossible to meet face-to-face. And beware of someone who won’t speak at all over the phone; it could be because their English will tip you off that they didn’t grow up in the U.S. A phone conversation should serve to set up a meeting, not as an end in itself. Scammers use these talks to pry information out of you about family members, where you live, financial information and vulnerabilities.

Finally, get a last name and phone number for anyone you’ll be meeting in person and give that information to someone you trust. Check in with that person after your date to acknowledge that all is well. For more online dating tips, go to for advice from professional dating coach Lisa Copeland.

In fact, there are so many dating apps for the baby boomer generation out there that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which one is right for you. Should you be on more than one app at a time to increase your chances? Is paying for more service the way to go, or is it just as good to use the freebie version? Is there really one site for people interested in marriage? All the questions can prevent you from joining at all. But if you don’t dive in, you’ll never find a pearl! As with most things in life, you’ll learn as you go. But just in case you’d like a few pointers, we’ve gathered information about some popular sites to get you started on your journey. They’re in no particular order, so browse sites that interest you to get a feel for them.

  • OurTime. A dating site for people over 50, OurTime caters to those just dipping their toe in the water by making matches for pen pals, travel buddies or other companions in addition to romantic relationships. The company has a free app where you can send emails and flirts, view profiles with photos, and see just who’s been checking your profile. For more capability, try their paid service. One month is $29.96, six months runs $15 per month.
  • SilverSingles. The site promotes “a fresh take on 50+ dating” with no swiping or emailing required. You’ll start by taking a one-time, extensive personality test to start your dating profile. Based on your input, SilverSingles sends you three to seven potential matches every day. You can start online chatting and set up that first date right away. There is a free version, but doling out for more options is a bit pricey at $57.95 per month for three months, $44.95 per month for a six-month commitment, and $31.95 per month for year.
  • eHarmony.  Although not for an older crowd specifically, eHarmony has the reputation of being the premier site for people whose end goal is a ring on their finger. At eHarmony, you’ll answer some basic questions first, then complete compatibility questions that reveal your personality. They’ll send you matches, and you can check out those profiles for free, but you’ll have to pony up some cash to communicate. Three months costs $54.95 per month, while a six month commitment runs $36.95 per month and a year goes down to $18.95 per month.
  • EliteSingles. Aimed at an “educated” crowd (finishing junior high doesn’t count), EliteSingles boasts that 80% of members have a university degree. It’s fast-growing, with about 381,000 new members every month. They bill “serious online dating” based on a like-minded match to find lasting love, with an international platform in 25 countries. There is a free version, but otherwise, we’ll hope that education got you a decent salary, because it’s not cheap. You’ll pay $62.95 per month for three months, $44.95/month for a six month commitment, and $31.95 per month for a year.
  • Zoosk.  What if the idea of marriage is a big question in your mind? Maybe your life partner passed away and you just want companionship, or the sting of your divorce made you gun-shy around white dresses and boutonnieres. At Zoosk, you can start off with a casual relationship and keep it there or progress to something more serious. More than 35 million members of all ages are using the site’s “behavioural matchmaking” technology to find someone. Part of the reason may be the affordable price: $29.95 for a month, $19.98 per month for three months, and $12.49 per month for a year. 
  • SeniorMatch. “You don’t have to be alone.” The experts at have built a site just for the over-50 crowd, and they’ve done a nice job. Right on the homepage they make it clear that whether you’re looking for a travel buddy, activity partner, companionship, or a dating relationship, they’ve got you covered. It also claims to be the largest dating site for baby boomers and other older adults. There’s a free version, and a paid subscription won’t cost an arm and a leg: $29.95 for a month, $19.95 for three months, $15.95 for half a year or $11.95 per month for a full year. 

Volunteering for Love

Leave it to folks in progressive Austin, TX, to come up with the first dating experiment to combine philanthropy with romance. Swoovy founders Brooke Waupsh and Jeff McMahon reached out to local nonprofits to assess interest in the app. Potential partners included animal rescues, community gardens, food banks and more. They figured that people who share a common interest in doing good might have a better chance of hitting it off. It can also be easier to chat when you’re engaged in a common task than if you’re facing each other over a cup of coffee. And if the date didn’t go like you’d hoped, well, you still put in some time at community service. Everybody wins. Right now, the app is only available in Austin, but watch for it to roll out to other parts of the country.

Tips for Your First Meeting

The vast majority of dating from an online introduction goes very well. However, it’s smart to take a few precautions just in case. OurTime offers the following tips for your first dates:

  • Always meet in public. Meet for the first time in a populated, public location — never in a private or remote location.
  • Tell a friend. Inform a friend or family member of your plans, including when and where you're going. If you own a mobile phone, make sure you have it with you.
  • Stay sober. Do not do anything that would impair your judgment and cause you to make a decision you could regret.
  • Drive yourself to and from the first meeting. Just in case things don't work out, you need to be in control of your own ride — even if that means taking a taxi or Uber.

Click below for the other articles in the October 2019 Senior Spirit