Search our Blog

Search our Blog

Monday, December 23, 2019

Anger Worse for Health Than Sadness

Older adults who are angry have worse health than older adults who are sad. 

About one quarter of people age 65 and over feel clinically depressed. More than half of visits to the doctor by older adults involve complaints of emotional distress. And depression is a primary cause of decline in quality of life related to health for older adults, according to a recent study. You might assume that being sad is causing health issues in the over-65 population. However, new research published in Psychology and Aging suggests that it’s not sorrow that’s the culprit, but anger.

"As most people age, they simply cannot do the activities they once did, or they may experience the loss of a spouse or a decline in their physical mobility and they can become angry," said Meaghan A. Barlow, MA, of Concordia University, lead author of the study. "Our study showed that anger can lead to the development of chronic illnesses, whereas sadness did not.”

10 Tips to Reduce Anger

Anger is linked to depression along with sadness. While it’s important to understand when medical intervention is needed to quell anger, there are a variety of tactics that can be useful for people of any age to rein in their rage. Often, it’s a matter of getting out of the moment and giving yourself time to reflect instead of simply reacting.
  1. Change your breathing. When you’re angry, your breath becomes shallower and your breathing rate speeds up. Try closing your eyes and breathing in deeply and slowly, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth for several minutes.
  2. Recite a mantra. Deflect your angry response by repeating a word or phrase that helps you calm down and focus on something else. “Take it easy,” “Let it go” and “Breathe” are all examples of calming mantras.
  3. Journal. Writing down your emotions can help you calm down, as though they’re flowing out of you and onto the paper. Journaling also takes you away from the immediate situation and gives you time to process events.
  4. Laugh. Using your smile muscles, even when you don’t feel happy, is proven to lighten your mood. You may find relief by listening to comedy, watching a funny show or sharing jokes with a friend.
  5. Be grateful. Take a timeout to remember how many things are going well. Practice gratitude for a roof over your head, a soft bed, a stranger’s smile.
  6. Set the timer. Rage can come on suddenly. Thankfully, it can also dissipate quickly. Set the timer for ten minutes and it’s likely you’ll be much more in control.
  7. Take a walk. Physical exercise can be a great antidote to anger and stress. Go for a walk, do some sit-ups, stretch out your muscles.
  8. Count to 10. It’s hard to stay really mad for long. Try counting slowly to 10, or even 100. It may help to walk in a circle while you count, releasing your anger.
  9. Listen to music. Whether you rock out to Iron Maiden or destress with “Claire de Lune,” music can calm the savage beast within.
  10. Create. Finding a way to make something productive out of your anger can help it go away. Try picking up a paintbrush, weeding the garden or penning some poetry.

Study Compares Anger and Sadness

Researchers collected data from 226 older adults in Montreal, Canada. Participants were in the early old age group (59 to 79 years old) or advanced old age group (80 years old and up). They completed surveys asking how angry or sad they felt over a week. At the same time, researchers were able to measure inflammation from blood samples and gathered information about chronic, age-related disease.

"We found that experiencing anger daily was related to higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness for people 80 years old and older, but not for younger seniors," said study co-author Carsten Wrosch, Ph.D., also of Concordia University. "Sadness, on the other hand, was not related to inflammation or chronic illness."

The authors theorize that anger in the younger cohort was an impetus driving people to pursue goals and overcome challenges, whereas the older group may have experienced a greater number of irreversible losses and feel that many of life’s pleasures were no longer possible to experience.


Anger creates inflammation, an immune response that can help the body heal short-term. However, long-lasting inflammation can trigger chronic illness, especially late in life. Unhealthy anger happens when people hold in their feelings over time, turn frustration in on themselves, or burst out in rage. This sort of anger can hurt your heart, increase your risk of stroke, weaken your immune system and increase anxiety.

“In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles,” says Chris Aiken, MD, an instructor in clinical psychiatry at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine and director of the Mood Treatment Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“Repressed anger — where you express it indirectly or go to great lengths to control it, is associated with heart disease.”

Anger is a factor in stroke incidence, as well. One study uncovered a three times higher risk of stroke from a blood clot to the brain or bleeding in the brain in the two hours following an angry outburst. People with an aneurysm suffered a six times greater risk of bursting this aneurysm after an angry episode.

People who are often angry may find they feel sick more frequently than those who aren’t. A study by scientists at Harvard University revealed that healthy adults who simply recalled an angry experience had a six-hour repression of antibody immunoglobulin A, the first line of cell defense against infection.

Finally, anger can increase anxiety levels. A 2012 study correlated anger with worsening symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Hostility was also a contributing factor to increased severity of the disorder’s symptoms, including excessive and uncontrolled worry that interferes with daily life.

There is hope, however. The Canadian study authors suggest that education and therapy may be the answer to help older adults take control of their emotions. Coping strategies can help people of any age calm their inner rage. Below, find 10 helpful strategies for defusing anger and improving your health.

Print Friendly Version

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Best Retirement Strategy

Stanford University examined 292 retirement portfolio strategies for middle-income earners with less than $1 million saved. This is the best one they found. 

There is no perfect retirement income solution. The change from defined benefit (pension) plans of previous decades to the defined contribution options that are common today has left many people wondering how to invest their retirement nest eggs so they won’t run out of money. The sheer number of financial instruments and strategies leave many people feeling like deer in the headlights. Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a strategy that works for most of the people, most of the time.

Break-even analysis of Social Security

While the Stanford method works for the majority of earners, it’s not a perfect fit for all. That’s why it may be wise to hire a financial professional to help you tailor a plan to your specific situation. Take Social Security, for example.

While waiting to collect until age 70 is generally a good thing because the amount of your monthly check increases the longer you wait until you’ve reached that milestone, there are circumstances where beginning withdrawals earlier would be the better choice. You have to know your break-even point, or the point at which the amount you receive if you claim later equals the total amount you would have received if you had started earlier.

This break-even point usually occurs somewhere from age 77 to 83, depending on when you begin getting benefits. You can read about how to calculate your own break-even point here, but beware of the pitfalls.

Cost-of-living adjustments take place annually, with some years having no adjustment at all. If you include them, says Joe Elasser, president of Coliseum, a provider of Social Security timing software, “that’s going to slant the calculation and the break-even age to make it look as though delaying is more beneficial quicker.” He recommends eliminating these adjustments when making your calculations.

You also need to consider what you could have earned by investing checks if you took the money earlier. That’s if you would be investing the money and not spending it. Plus, if you claim early and continue to work, benefits could be reduced or be subject to higher taxes.

Additionally, Social Security benefits will never lose 40% in a market crash — they’re not a risky asset class like equities. Benefits go up about 8% for every year you delay, while the stock market may lose money in that same time period.

Finally, married couples have their own special considerations. Your spouse is a big part of the equation, because starting benefits earlier could negatively impact what your partner can eventually receive if he or she claims on your earnings record.

“I would not leave it to guesswork,” advises John Piershale, wealth advisor at Piershale Financial Group. “It’s just not that easy to figure out by being intuitive. You should really put the pencil to the paper and just run some numbers.”

Spend Safely in Retirement

Consulting research scholar Steve Vernon of the Stanford Center on Longevity, in collaboration with the Society of Actuaries (SOA), studied ways to “pensionize” a 401(k) or IRA. “What we wanted to do was identify a strategy that middle-income workers could use that’s fairly straightforward and that they could do on their own,” says Vernon. The team analyzed 292 income strategies to find the optimal way to make withdrawals. The best option was dubbed the “spend safely in retirement” method.

“This is a strategy that people can use to decide if they’ve got enough money to retire,” says Vernon. “But also, a lot of people are uncertain as to when they’ll retire and if they should work part-time for a while, so this strategy can help them think through those questions.”

The winning method offers “more average total retirement income expected throughout retirement compared to most solutions we analyzed,” according to Vernon, and “provides a lifetime income, no matter how long the participant lives.” The strategy has just two main components which are easy to follow. Sound too good to be true?

Pair of Key Elements

1. Don’t take Social Security payments until age 70. 

Vernon says that for middle-income earners, Social Security will generate most of their income. “It will be anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their total income.

“And Social Security is nearly a perfect retirement income generator: It lasts the rest of your life, it protects against inflation, it doesn’t go down if the stock market crashes, it’s paid automatically into your checking account, part of it isn’t subject to income taxes. No other retirement income generator has all of those positive features, so maximizing Social Security is a key part of this strategy.”

For some people, working until age 70 is out of the question. In that case, the report suggests creating a fund out of retirement savings using the same withdrawal amount that Social Security would otherwise pay. This “retirement transition fund” should be held in a separate account.

“Some workers might decide it should be a large enough amount to cover their estimated living expenses for a specified period, say two to five years,” the report says. “Another use for a retirement transition fund is to set aside enough savings to cover the amount of the Social Security benefit they plan to delay for as long as needed.” Either way, the fund’s purpose is to put off taking Social Security benefits for as long as possible.

But don’t make the mistake of leaving that transition fund in cash, where inflation means you lose around 2% every year. The transition bucket could be invested in a liquid fund with minimal volatility in principal, such as a money market fund, a short-term bond fund or a stable value fund in a 401(k) plan. This type of fund could protect a substantial amount of retirement income from investment risk as the worker approaches retirement, since the retirement transition bucket would be invested in stable investments and Social Security isn't impacted by investment returns.

Although Social Security income is considered stable, there are caveats to it as well. “Pessimists might point out that Social Security is subject to political risk; our leaders can change the amount of benefits paid to current retirees or older workers,” researchers admitted, adding, “when deciding on a Social Security claiming strategy, older workers must weigh this risk against Social Security’s other desirable features.”

2. Create an “automatic retirement paycheck.” Invest any remaining savings in low-cost mutual funds common to IRAs and 401(k) plans, such as target-date, balanced or stock index funds. 

Then let required minimum distributions (RMDs) serve as your additional “paychecks.” These withdrawals are mandated beginning at age 70.5 so that the IRS gets its share of your savings. You can use a free RMD calculator such as the one at Vanguard to estimate payments. These RMDs are based on a percentage of the value of your account, so while they will fluctuate as your savings goes up or down with the market, they won’t run out. Furthermore, you don’t have to spend all the money you must withdraw (or face a steep additional fine), so you can reinvest it if you don’t need it, or put it aside for another year.

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

Print Friendly Version

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

An increasing number of grandparents are navigating the hurdles, both emotional and financial, of caring for grandchildren.

The percentage of children living with grandparents in the U.S. has doubled since 1970. The reasons for this shift are often tragic. Grandparents can struggle to cope with the enormous responsibility of raising one or more grandchildren. The mental stress on both parties is a substantial factor in each individual’s well-being. Additionally, many affected households are low income.

How did this increase come about? Certainly, one element has been the opioid crisis. Every day, 130 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids. This national epidemic leaves behind children with no parent to care for them, either because the custodial parent has died or substance abuse has rendered parents incapable of caring for offspring. The 2007-2009 recession was another contributing factor as parents lost homes, jobs and savings in one fell swoop. Children can end up living with grandparents because of circumstances such as death, divorce, incarceration or mental illness. The situation may also be temporary, such as while a parent is deployed or jobless.

Financial Assistance for Grandfamilies

Oftentimes, grandparents with a new child to care for could use some financial assistance. Besides becoming a foster parent as we addressed previously, there are other avenues to seek financial help.

Low-income families may qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). If the child’s parents have passed away, assistance may be available through Social Security. Medicaid may be available to cover health care costs, including dentistry. Review your state’s options here. Be sure to check both federal and local grants here for anything from getting a Christmas tree to finding a free summer camp.

Poverty is a fact of life for many custodial families. The average income is less than $20,000 for homes where only the grandmother is present, which is the case in 1 million households. In total, over one-fifth (21%) of grandparents raising grandchildren have incomes that fall below the poverty line. In addition, many of the estimated 3 million grandparents providing a home to at least one grandchild have health problems of their own.

Studies show that these grandparents have above-normal rates of depression, sleeplessness, emotional problems, and chronic health issues such as diabetes. They have feelings of exhaustion, loneliness and isolation, as well as a lack of privacy. They also report having too little time to spend with a spouse, family and friends. 

Finally, individuals in this group of grandparents may well be battling anger, resentment, disappointment and/or embarrassment regarding their child’s parental shortcomings. Many grandparents are surprised by an adult child’s abuse of their child, decision to commit a crime or choice to simply walk away from the responsibility of being a parent. If the child died, both grandparent and grandchild are grieving during the transition and long afterward. In any case, the grandparent’s vision of his or her role as stepping in here and there to babysit and play with grandkids has been shattered.

“No one expects to spend their retirement raising a child,” said a former teacher whose son abandoned his 2-year-old daughter after moving in with his mother. “It changes everything. Your life is turned upside down.” 


When a parent can’t or won’t take care of a child, grandparents must often decide whether to raise the child themselves or let the state place the child in foster care. Research shows that they choose to care for their grandchild over placement at a 25-to-1 ratio (incidentally saving taxpayers more than $6 billion per year). 

These grandparents could become licensed foster-care providers and receive a stipend, but the vast majority do not. They may not want the intrusion of caseworkers and judges monitoring what is going on in their home, or they could be averse to giving the state legal custody of the child. They may also worry that they can’t meet licensing requirements, which can involve criminal background checks of youthful indiscretions and housing standards that mandate the number of bedrooms or square footage. To even be eligible for licensing, the child must have come to the relative via a child-welfare agency, which many do not. 

This leaves the grandparents in perilous legal standing, without legal custody or guardianship. They thus have no rights when it comes to decisions regarding school, medical care or even plans for vacation. Some grandparents live in fear that one of their grandchild’s parents will take the child away. The majority of grandparents have to navigate situations like vaccinations and school enrollment by trial and error. For some, however, there is a solution.

Created in 2008, assisted guardianship gave all states and some Native American tribes the option of using federal money to allow licensed foster grandparents to exit the system while still receiving payments for the child’s food, shelter and clothing, as well as access to support services. There is no longer oversight from child-welfare agencies or the courts, saving approximately $50,000 annually per child. But the grandparent must be licensed to foster the child, and only 35 states and a handful of tribes have opted in. 

The grandchildren come with their own set of issues. They may have been born with drug dependence, or started life in a home with abuse, drug use and/or neglect. The trauma of switching homes is a further impact, and physical, emotional and behavioral issues are unsurprisingly common. There are places grandparents can turn to for help.


AARP has prepared a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the addition of an unexpected grandchild to a family. Check out the basic things you need to know to find out who you need to talk to and what documents to gather together. The page walks you through what to do and how to keep organized while you’re doing it. After all, there are a lot of moving pieces to having responsibility for a child.

Next, visit the AARP page for Grandfamilies Resources. You can find legal support, a guide to work issues and more. Sixty and Me has a guide listing resources that is equally helpful. You can find an online support group, mental health resources and more. 

Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren need support, patience and understanding from the whole community as they navigate choppy waters without a map of what may lie ahead. Trained professionals can suggest support groups for them and therapy for the children, if needed, to ease this difficult transition. 

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Print Friendly Version

Friday, December 13, 2019

Best Tech Gifts for Older Adults

From life-changing to merely convenient, these standout innovations are worth a look.

The gift-giving season has arrived, and you’ve taken care of the kids (and possibly grandkids), decorated the house and bought the eggnog. The older members of the family have long since abdicated their own right to presents in favor of the younger set. What does Grandma need, anyway? She always tells you that her gift is seeing the kids, and that’s enough. Or perhaps you’re a grandparent yourself who’s been through a lot of holidays, and you’d rather spend money on the children than yourself. Maybe you’re on the younger side of “old age,” and you’re choosing to travel more. But a present for yourself that comes in a box? No, thank you.

If you haven’t looked at what technology has to offer lately, you may well be missing a chance to make life a whole lot better. Yes, we’re talking about tech for your 90-year-old mother, and we’re talking about tech for you, too. Whether your Instagram account is second nature or you completely skipped the whole computer generation, there’s a product out there for you.

If money is tight and you are computer literate, you may be able to offer the know-how and your time to set up the new device as your gift to someone who is not. Refurbished products are often available online, and check out Craigslist for used devices for sale in your area. Visit this page for a list of 10 sites where you can buy used tech, with recommendations.

  1. Amazon Echo (“Alexa”) voice assistant. About $100. No technological ability is needed to operate this device, which listens for voice commands. Older adults with impaired vision or who have trouble tapping a phone can ask to listen to music (quite a lot of it comes free) or audiobooks (it will play free Hoopla books from your library), and they can call family and friends who have the device. The Echo will also endlessly answer queries about the time and weather, making it invaluable for someone with dementia. Voice assistants can wake you with your favorite music, remind you about appointments, turn lights on and off, and tell jokes. A must for anyone living alone.
  2. Echo Show video screen. About $180. A way to get the benefits of the Alexa voice assistant and add video to the mix, the Echo Show is especially nice for older adults who live far from family members. Make video calls using only your voice to anyone with an Echo device or the Alexa app. Users can also see weather forecasts, calendars and to-do lists. Plus, you can add a Hulu subscription for TV and sports and get movies with Prime Video. You can also set timers and alarms. 
  3. Family Historian 6 Genealogy and Family Tree software. About $50. Chart all your ancestors and/or descendants and include photos and videos. Older adults can create booklets, maps and family trees to pass on. The software boasts an internet search tool to help make discoveries, and it’s fully compatible with the global standard for shared genealogy data.
  4. Sonic Boom alarm clock with bed shaker. About $70. The heaviest sleepers will have no trouble waking up when they feel a pulsating alarm or bed vibrations from the shaker, which slips in under a mattress or pillow. It also features an adjustable LED display with large, bright green numbers. (Great for teenagers, too!).
  5. Serene Innovations HD-40P High Definition Amplified Photo Phone. About $70. Dial up to nine people by touching their photo, which is displayed on the phone. The ringer is extra loud, and incoming sound is amplified as well. It’s hearing aid compatible and has front and side visual ring flashers. 
  6. Ecovacs Deebot N79S robotic vacuum cleaner. About $190. It can be harder to push around a vacuum or sweep when you get older. Solve the problem with a robotic vacuum cleaner that can clean an entire floor, work on a spot or tidy around the edges. It has 110 minutes of run time, and automatically returns to the charger so it’s always ready. Plus, it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant voice devices. 
  7. Esky wireless RF item locator. Have you ever misplaced your keys or wallet? Then you’ll appreciate this pack of four key finders that will save you hours of angst while you hunt down lost items. The finder has an 82-foot range, and the finders will emit a loud noise and light up to accommodate those with limited hearing or sight.
  8. Lutron Maestro motion sensor switch (2-pack). About $40. Older adults will appreciate sensors that turn the lights on when they enter a room, and shut them off when they leave. Prevent falls by making sure areas are lit when your family member is moving through the house. These motion sensor switches feature reliable performance up to 30 feet and programmable time out. The switches work with any bulb type.
  9. Hamilton Beach electric jar opener. About $35. Have you ever struggled to open a jar? It may be due to arthritis, declining strength or just a stubborn seal. From spaghetti sauce to pickles, it’s frustrating to be able to see exactly what you want to eat but not get it out! Fix that problem with an electric jar opener that does the job with the press of a button. 
  10. RainBowl motion sensor toilet night light. About $13. If nature calls in the middle of the night, the last thing you want is to turn on the bathroom light and get blinded and fully awakened at the same time. Solve the problem with this sensor night light that fits on any toilet and comes with a lifetime warranty. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Kindness on a Budget

Feel great by trying out a few random acts of kindness that cost little or nothing.

There is nothing like giving to make you feel valued and important, but sometimes being on a fixed income can leave older adults wondering what they have to contribute. Quite a bit, as it turns out! There are plenty of things we can do for each other that cost nothing, or nearly so. And many of those things can be much more impactful in our community than any gift we could buy. This list is just one to get you motivated to start giving little gifts of kindness every day. Once you begin implementing a suggestion or two, you’re bound to come up with ideas of your own.
  1. Smile at every person you encounter. Using the smile muscles in your face actually lifts your mood, and you can brighten someone else’s day at the same time.
  2. Give a compliment to a stranger. It’s not as hard as you may think. Thank someone for holding a door open, tell somebody what a great hat they have on, or that their smile is fantastic. 
  3. Take time for a friend who’s been having a tough go of it. Sit down with them and make a point of listening, really listening, for an hour or an afternoon. 
  4. Cook a casserole for a new mother in your neighborhood, and deliver it with a card welcoming the baby. 
  5. Call up someone who has made your life better and let them know what a difference they have made. 
  6. Let someone go in front of you in line at the grocery store while giving them a smile.
  7. Bake cookies and take them to your local thrift store workers, or volunteers at your food bank or animal shelter. 
  8. Send a note to someone you love, telling them you are thinking of them. Let them know why they are close to your heart.
  9. Pick up litter in your neighborhood, on your walking route or in a park. 
  10. Donate old eyeglasses or clothing you no longer wear to a charitable organization. Lions Club recycle centers will take your glasses and send them to needy people around the world. 
  11. Fill the parking meter for a total stranger.
  12. Remember who has complimented your scarf, and give it to them.
  13. Donate your time as a volunteer. You can start your search at your local library, or even make that your charitable organization.
  14. Think of the person who is in need, who everyone else is avoiding - and be the one who helps them. Listen without judging, and let them know you care.
  15. Leave the coupons for things you don’t put in your basket next to the item for someone else to use. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

December 21 - Chris Evert, Tennis Player

Chris Evert was more than a tennis player, she was a tennis legend. Born in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, her father was a tennis coach and the game was a way of life for the Catholic family with five children, all of whom played. However, it was Chris who displayed unique talent early on, becoming the number one ranked under-14 girl in the U.S. the same year she played her first senior tournament. Evert made her Grand Slam entry at age 16, losing to Billie Jean King in the semifinal.

Over her lifetime, she won 18 Grand Slam singles championships and three doubles titles, and a total of 157 singles championships and 32 doubles titles. Her record of reaching 34 Grand Slam singles finals still stands for both men and women (and she skipped some French and Australian Opens because the Slams were not as prestigious in her day). She never lost in the first or second round of a Grand Slam singles tournament, and only faltered twice in the third round. She broke record after record as she dominated women’s tennis from 1974 to 1982. Her last big win was when she was a month shy of her 34th birthday.

Dubbed the “Ice Maiden” for her cool, focused demeanor on the courts, Evert played it right in business. She owns the Evert Tennis Academy with her brother John and helps out with her old high school tennis team. Evert is a publisher of Tennis magazine and joined the ESPN team to provide commentary during Grand Slam events. She also put her name on a line of tennis apparel, Chrissie by Tail.

December 25 - Annie Lennox, Vocalist (Eurythmics)

Pop singer Annie Lennox can put “OBE” after her name, as the Queen bestowed her with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her "tireless charity campaigns and championing of humanitarian causes.” But her claim to fame is rooted in music. One half of the Eurythmics, Lennox achieved international success and wowed music video viewers of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by appearing with short-cropped, orange hair and wearing a man’s suit. Check it out here.

Lennox studied at the Royal Academy of music in London, concentrating in flute, piano and harpsichord for three unhappy years. Her flute teacher noted, "Ann has not always been sure of where to direct her efforts, though lately she has been more committed. She is very, very able, however.”

After a stint as lead singer for The Tourists, Lennox and Dave Stewart left to form the Eurythmics, putting out such hits as “Love Is a Stranger,” “Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Would I Lie to You?” In 1990, Lennox took off on her solo career, recording the wildly successful album Diva and multiple other hits. Lennox has won eight Brit Awards and has been named Best British Female Artist six times.

In the 1990s she got back with Stewart to record Peace and donated profits from a subsequent concert tour to Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Lennox also supports work to benefit people with HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ community. She has been married three times and has two children from her second union.

December 28 - Denzel Washington, Actor

Winner of two Golden Globe awards, a Tony and two Academy Awards, Denzel Washington is a staple around Hollywood. Washington directed his first film, Antwone Fisher, in 2002. His third directorial effort, Fences, also starred the actor and earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016.

Washington grew up in Mount Vernon, New York. His mother operated a beauty parlor, and when his parents divorced when he was 14, she sent him to a private prep school. Washington said, "That decision changed my life, because I wouldn't have survived in the direction I was going. The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them.”

Washington got a BA in Drama and Journalism, but wasn’t sure of his next step. Working as creative arts director at a summer camp, he joined a staff talent show and another staff member told him he should try acting. Washington returned to Fordham to study acting, and attended graduate school at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco before starting his professional career. He gained notoriety on the hospital drama St. Elsewhere, soon appearing on television, in films and on the stage. He proved adept at roles that spanned the spectrum from Disney to drama, and is a steady box-office draw.

Washington married Pauletta Pearson in 1983. The couple has four children, and lives in New York City.  He’s a devout Christian and donated $2.5 million to construct a new church in Los Angeles in 1995, as well as contributing to a number of other philanthropic efforts.

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

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