Search our Blog

Search our Blog

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