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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.

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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

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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

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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