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Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID-19 Treatment, Vaccines Update

As Americans long for a return to normalcy in the wake of the pandemic, a variety of treatment and vaccine candidates for the coronavirus are showing promise.

We all yearn to go to restaurants again, to work out at the gym, to go to a concert or get together with friends without thinking about an imaginary six-foot ring. Some states are starting to reopen, but nobody will be able to rest easy until a reliable vaccine is developed or at least an effective treatment can allow us to avoid thinking the worst. New information seems to come out daily, but where are we really? 


Farther along than you might think, it turns out. Let’s start with treatments for COVID-19. Fortunately, a handful of drugs that have been developed to ameliorate the symptoms produced by other diseases are finding initial success against the coronavirus. Some may be familiar to you, others not so much.

  • Remdesivir. The drug continues to look promising after several small studies. Allowed on a “compassionate use” program that fast-tracks likely treatments, the majority of a 53-person trial “demonstrated clinical improvement and no new safety signals were identified,” according to maker Gilead Sciences. While more studies need to be done, the company is ramping up production to treat more than half a million patients by October and twice that by December.
  • Kevzara. Currently approved to treat immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, Kevzara may reduce COVID-19’s damage to lungs by stifling the body’s overreaction to the virus. Suppressing the immune system may allow some individuals to avoid ventilation and recover faster. A partnership between Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi, the drug is currently in U.S. trials that were anticipated to include as many as 400 patients.
  • Baricitinib. Another immunosuppressant drug, baricitinib is currently under study with hospitalized patients in the U.S. Maker Eli Lilly hopes its anti-inflammatory properties could ease symptoms. The study will expand abroad, with results anticipated at the end of June. 
  • Famotidine. A common medication for heartburn, famotidine is in a trial with 200 patients receiving a daily dose nine times the amount used to treat heartburn in common over-the-counter medications like Pepcid. COVID-19 patients receive the drug intravenously, rather than by mouth. Conducted by Northwell Health at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, the trial is only one of several underway at the hospital, which is also looking at remdesivir and sarilumab, another drug approved to treat arthritis.
  • Chloroquine, derivative hydroxychloroquine. Anti-malaria drug chloroquine and sister drug hydroxychloroquine were among the first to be touted as a possible treatments for the coronavirus, but a recent study in Brazil was cut short after several patients developed irregular heartbeats and more than 20 died after taking daily doses. The findings serve as a cautionary tale after the drug was upheld by the president as a potential “game changer” before adequate testing. While it is approved to treat auto-immune diseases such as Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, serious side effects include arrhythmia and muscle weakness, and the drug is toxic at high doses.
  • Lopinavir and ritonavir. Part of what the World Health Organization (WHO) terms a “solidarity study,” these drugs and some of those mentioned above are involved in studies in 90 countries around the world. These two (used together) inhibit an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to survive. So far, results are not promising.

Antibody Tests Not Ready

Anyone who’s had the virus is anxious to get a coronavirus “passport” signifying that he or she is cleared to go anywhere, anytime, and around anyone. The theory is that once you’ve had the disease, antibodies circulating in your body will keep you protected against exposure to positive individuals for some time, perhaps years. And since you can’t get the coronavirus, you won’t be passing it along to anyone, either. Not so fast.

For one thing, there isn’t yet a test available that is reliable enough to use. While companies are working toward one that gives proven results, experts warn that current tests “may give a false reading and put you, your family or others at risk,” according to John Newton, the UK’s testing coordinator. He adds. “As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

A study of 12 antibody tests in the U.S. performed by the COVID-19 Testing Project showed that one gave false positives more than 15% of the time, and three others gave false positives more than 10% of the time. “That’s terrible. That’s really terrible.” says Dr. Caryn Bern, one of the study authors. She notes that while no test is perfect, an acceptable rate must be less than 5%, and preferably under 2%.


The world is waiting for a vaccine, possibly followed by a booster dose, that will eliminate fear of the coronavirus for anyone who gets immunized. But scientists actually think a variety of vaccines will be created to battle the virus. 

“Ultimately, there will be more than one vaccine,” according to Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, where he is working on a COVID-19 vaccine. “There could be several vaccines that have different uses. Some vaccines might be used for older Americans at risk of disease or those with underlying comorbid conditions like diabetes or obesity. There might be some use for younger adults. Maybe some for health-care workers. Same with the other technologies that we’re talking about, like remdesivir, there may be a prophylactic use for it as well. All of this is being accelerated through a lot of studies in parallel and we’ll have to see how the target product profiles will look.”

As the coronavirus destroys economies and livelihoods, laboratories around the world are hard at work to get products out in record time. Here are several leading candidates, followed by some lesser-known contenders.

  • Oxford University shocked many medical professionals when it announced it may have a vaccine that will be “widely available” by September. Researchers there had already been working on a vaccine for a similar virus, so they were able to pivot quickly to COVID-19. “Well personally I have a high degree of confidence about this vaccine, because it’s technology that I’ve used before,” says Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the university. It’s already been found effective in animal trials and is currently being tested in humans. Before that study is complete, millions of doses will be produced in hopes of success.
  • Johnson & Johnson has announced that it, too, is about to begin production of a its vaccine on an “at risk” basis, i.e. before it’s proven to work. It will be made at a facility in the Netherlands and here in the U.S. J&J partnered with subsidiary Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. back in January, working with a drug platform that had been developed for Ebola, Zika and influenza.
  • Moderna biotech has a vaccine candidate that recently was approved for further testing. Phase 2 will begin in the second quarter to evaluate safety, adverse reactions and efficacy of two vaccinations given 28 days apart. It will involve about 600 healthy adults and older adults. A third phase could start in the fall. 
  • Dynavax Technologies Corporation is making its adjuvant technology available to other companies. The tech boosts immune response to a vaccine. In addition, Dynavax has partnered with the University of Queensland, Australia, on a coronavirus vaccine of its own.
  • GlaxoSmithKline is also allowing access of its vaccine adjuvant platform technology, which strengthens the response to a vaccine and decreases the amount needed per dose.
  • Heat Biologics, in partnership with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is in the preclinical stage of vaccine development.
  • Inovio Pharmaceuticals is in a Phase 1 trial of its DNA-based vaccine that is backed by a $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It has launched human trials in the U.S., China and South Korea with 3,000 doses of the vaccine. It expects to have 1 million doses ready for further testing or emergency use by year’s end.
  • Novavax has developed several vaccine candidates. The preclinical biotech expects at least one Phase 1 trial to start this month, with results to begin coming out in July. 
  • Vaxart announced plans to work on a vaccine back in January, and it’s developing an oral vaccine in the form of a room-temperature stable pill. Such a product would offer enormous advantages over injectables, which are normally refrigerated.

Whether or not a vaccine is available by the fall, it may be longer until it’s in widespread use. “Our vaccine could be ready by the fall as well,” says Dr. Hotez. “We’ll have up to 200,000 doses. But unless you’ve shown that it actually works and unless you’ve shown that it’s safe, you’re not going to do that (make it widely available). Without having the efficacy and safety data, I think you have to be really careful about bold statements (about having a vaccine ready this year). As I often like to say, these nucleic acid vaccines have been around for 30 years and offer great promise, they work in laboratory animals, but, historically, they have not worked well in people. Maybe now there’s been modifications to improve that. Let’s wait and see.”

So, the jury’s still out on both treatments and vaccines for now. But scientists are working around the clock to treat and prevent the coronavirus. That’s good news for a weary world that is looking for hope and a return to socializing with friends. It may not come this summer, but the future is looking brighter all the time.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Financial Help During COVID-19

Many older adults need some extra help during these trying times. Here’s where to get it.

Retirement insecurity is a thing. As recently as 2019, a quarter of all older adults in the U.S. had less than $9,650 in savings, and about one out of ten had none at all. Even for those who have much more, the recent fall in stock prices has likely been a disconcerting blow. Retirees who depend on dividends have watched as many companies, worried about the economy, cut theirs. And many older adults continue to work in “retirement.”

Last year, one out of five older adults were still working. Some are supporting children and grandchildren or stretching a Social Security check for rent and food. Research shows that older adults have a harder time getting back in the workforce after losing a job or may simply give up looking for work. Many have lost a position in retail work or find their Uber income has vaporized as customers disappear. 

Negotiating with Creditors

Many types of monthly payments can be negotiated if your income has taken a hit during the pandemic. Mortgages, home equity lines of credit, auto loans, personal loans and credit card debt are prime examples. Some companies have set up relief programs - but you have to contact them to take advantage. How should you approach the call?

Take stock of your situation, says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Research terms you may not understand, and check on current lending rates, for example. Write out the basics of what you need to say to keep the call professional: how the coronavirus affected your income, and that you would like to work something out on payments.

You may want to politely refuse the first offer. If one customer service representative is unhelpful, call back on another day, says McClary. Ask if you can speak to a manager or the customer loyalty department. Ask what discounts and promotions are available, and what other callers have been offered. Remain calm, polite, and businesslike to have the greatest chance of success. 

Get the agreement in writing and ask about a negative report on your credit rating. Don’t agree to a balloon payment; instead, negotiate installment payments, or ask to have current payments tacked on to the end of the loan. 

Older adults who never thought they would have to ask for a little help are realizing that the world has changed. Luckily, there are things you can do to get by. We’ve gathered a list to help retirees all over the country make it through the COVID-19 season, however long it lasts.

  • You may qualify for a $1,200 stimulus payment from the federal government. If you get Social Security or file a tax return and earn less than $75,000 (single), $112,500 (head of household) or $150,000 for a married couple, the full amount should be available. There have been glitches reported in the system, which is not surprising considering the archaic hardware and rushed nature of the payments, but most people who expect the funds are getting them. Those who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) should see the cash by early May, as should those collecting Veterans Affairs benefits. People who do not get their Social Security or tax refunds direct deposited, but instead count on getting a check in the mail, will have to wait longest: up to five months. You can track where your payment is at the government Get My Payment page
  • If you are having trouble making house payments, contact your mortgage servicer (whoever you pay your mortgage to) immediately. Don’t wait until you are months behind. You have options, such as suspending payments for a while or reducing your payment. Options may vary with loan types and your personal situation. Prepare for the call by gathering your loan number, the reason for your hardship, all income and contributing sources for the mortgage, and assets. Contact the Homeowners HOPE Hotline at 1-888-995-4673 for help avoiding foreclosure or get housing counseling using HUD’s online locator tool
  • You can find general resources available in your community by dialing 211. It will connect you to a hotline that can give you information about a local food bank, clothing bank, shelters, rent assistance and help paying utilities. Remember that you should make the call for any resources. If someone calls you, it may be a scam.
  • If you need meals, contact Meals on Wheels and Feeding America to find help available in your community.
  • Need help with utility payments, prescription drug charges, and more? Find options available in your state at Benefits CheckUp
  • Getting around may be harder now, too. Find help with transportation at Eldercare Locator

One thing older adults have going for them is experience. We have been through a lot before and survived. But this time, ingenuity and a good work ethic may not be enough. It is alright to ask for help. The pandemic won’t last forever, even though it seems endless right now. Reach out for yourself or a loved one or neighbor who needs a boost. We’ll all get through this, together. 

Click below for the other articles in the May 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Free Healing Is a Benefit of Nature

Research shows that getting outside is not just a nice break from the office or home. Your body gets remarkable health benefits from nature.

A recent study done by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that people who spent a minimum of two hours every week outdoors in a natural environment were much more likely to say they had good health and psychological well-being than their counterparts who did not. And spending less time outside, whether in parks or other natural environments, didn’t just have a lesser effect; it had no benefit at all. 

The study included 20,000 people from all walks of life, including those from different ethnic groups, with varying income levels, and those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The effect held true across the board. Although scientists knew that getting outside was a boost for health, they hadn’t known how much time was enough. While the study showed a hard minimum, it didn’t matter whether the time per week was achieved with several shorter sessions or one two-hour chunk.

Scientific Benefits of Being Outdoors 

There are many ways that going outside can benefit health. Research supports all of the following statements about the upsides of stepping into nature.

  • At least for children, outdoor activity protects the eyes and reduces the risk of developing nearsightedness. 
  • Walks in green environments improve mood and self-esteem, especially among the mentally ill. 
  • Time outdoors lowers blood pressure. 
  • Going outside improves your attention span and ability to focus. New studies suggest it may help kids with ADHD. 
  • Creativity spikes after time outside. 
  • Preliminary studies suggest forest exposure may stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins. 
  • There is a strong positive correlation between green space and health for urban residents. 
  • Getting outside in sunlight gives people vitamin D, which many lack. 
  • Outside exposure can lessen the effects of seasonal affective disorder. 
  • Being outdoors boosts energy.

Lyme disease even from gardening?

One caution in the outdoors comes from the prevalence of Lyme disease, a potentially disabling infection of the nervous system and joints. It is caused by the blacklegged tick, which can spread the disease when it bites. They are active in temperatures down to the mid-30s, so be aware the ticks are out now. Three-fourths of cases take place not in the deep woods, but in backyards.

Ticks prefer wet, cool places with abundant shade. Stone walls, wood piles and brushy areas are favorite hideouts. Ornamental vegetation and lawns are the least likely to contain ticks. Create a tick-resistant garden by using a three-foot barrier of wood chips or rock between the lawn and brushy areas. Keep wood piles away from the house or put them atop a wood chip barrier. Remove leaf litter and keep lawns mowed. Locate play sets in open, sunny areas. Prune surrounding trees if needed. Since deer are a host, erect an 8-foot-high fence around the garden or plant deer-resistant perennials to discourage their presence. 

Time Outdoors Gaining Research Momentum

“When I wrote 'Last Child in the Woods' in 2005, this wasn’t a hot topic,” said Richard Louv, a journalist in San Diego whose book is largely credited with triggering a naturist movement and who first used the term Nature Deficit Disorder. “This subject was virtually ignored by the academic world. I could find 60 studies that were good studies. Now it’s approaching and about to pass 1,000 studies, and they point in one direction: Nature is not only nice to have, but it’s a have-to-have for physical health and cognitive functioning.”

Increasingly, researchers are studying the topic and using it for urban planning. “We have entered the urban century, with two-thirds of humanity projected to be living in cities by 2050,” said Gretchen Daily, director of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University. “There is an awakening underway today to many of the values of nature and the risks and costs of its loss. This new work can help inform investments in livability and sustainability of the world’s cities.”

The Children & Nature Network, founded by Louv and others, tracks much of this research but lists summaries of abstracts on its website. Scandinavian “forest schools” have found a home in the U.S. as more education takes place outdoors … an increase of 500 percent since 2012, according to Louv. 

Even health care providers have begun prescribing the back-to-nature paradigm. One organization, Park RX America, founded by Robert Zarr of Unity Healthcare in Washington, D.C., has a mission “to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing Nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals.”

The Trust for Public Lands recently completed a multi-year project to map parks in the U.S. with the goal of finding places that lack parkland. “We’ve mapped 14,000 communities, 86 percent of the nation, and looked at who does and doesn’t live within a 10-minute walk of a park,” said Adrian Benepe, a senior vice president of the organization. The Trust has a Ten Minute Walk initiative involving mayors across the U.S. to ensure everyone has access to a park within a short walk from where they live.

Businesses are taking note as well. They have become aware that attracting good employees requires more than a competitive salary, and are designing offices with large windows and access to trees and open space. “It’s needed to attract a skilled work force,” says Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix. “Young people are demanding high-quality outdoor experiences.”

More Than a Visual Experience

What makes time in the natural world restorative versus time spent elsewhere? Rachel and Stephen Kaplan have been studying this question since the 1970s, and they’ve come up with Attention Restoration Theory. While bustling city environments, work spaces and the like require effortful attention, they theorize that natural environments let people focus more broadly and with less effort, leading to a more relaxed body and mind. 

The Japanese have long advocated “forest bathing,” or walking in the woods. Researchers believe that smelling natural aerosols in the trees elevates levels of Natural Killer cells in the immune system that battle tumors and infections. One study showed that exposing people to essential cedar oil while they slept in a hotel room also caused a spike in the same cells.

In an age where climate change is causing significant anxiety, the antidote may be, in part, to go out in nature. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trike Enables Many to Ditch Wheelchair, Walker

The Alinker walking bike enables older adults and people with a range of disabilities to get around faster and easier — and look cool doing it.

“I used the Alinker today to take my dog to a nature preserve park I haven’t been able to get to for over two years,” writes a user in Oregon. A 67-year-old with leg braces writes, “Now my wife has trouble keeping up with me.” A Canadian woman, 70, says, “We went to a park at Lake Ontario yesterday and I rode the trails for four miles.” And a son says that his father, formerly in a wheelchair, “has become very eager” to walk and has taken up traveling again at the age of 96.

Alinker Walking Bike

What has changed the lives of all these people and many more around the world? The Alinker walking bike is designed for how people want to live. The yellow bike allows users, including amputees, to use their legs to move. With a “footprint” smaller than a wheelchair, the Alinker is welcome in grocery stores, museums and malls, as well as outdoors. The user sits upright at a level nearly as tall as standing height, allowing for easy social interaction. 

“Over my dead body will I use one of those!” Barbara Alink’s mother was expressing her distaste for that all-too-common device used by older adults to get around: the walker. She didn’t like the stigma associated with the device; she wanted to stay more active. Luckily, her daughter is an engineer and took heed of the need for a walking assist that would allow movement and be perceived as cool. 

Who Is It For?

Now, it’s not just older adults who are using the bike. Landmine victims, amputees, people with multiple sclerosis and other degenerative diseases, those with back pain, and many for whom walking is painful use the Alinker. More than 60% of people who use a wheelchair can still move their legs and potentially ride the Alinker. Users like that it doesn’t look like a medical device.

“You’re perceived completely differently. You’re standing up. You’re at eye level,” says Ceilidh Corcoran, 40. Diagnosed with a hip condition four years ago, after two surgeries she started limping. Soon after, the pain of walking drove her to a wheelchair. She negotiated life with a scooter, wheelchair and crutches, then saw an Instagram post from actor Selma Blair, who has MS. It featured a photo of Blair on her Alinker, and text that read, “I got places to go! Sometimes I can’t do it on my own two feet.” Blair enthused about her bike, and Corcoran longed for one for herself.

After a crowdfunding campaign and some financial help from Blair, Corcoran is loving her new bike. “I used to get sympathy smiles. Now I get genuine smiles,” she says. “I’m really hurting this week because I did so much last week. You totally overdo it (at first), but it’s such a great feeling.”


The Alinker has five distinct advantages:
  • Users sit upright, at about the same eye level as those standing.
  • Lower body stress is minimal because the seat takes the user’s weight.
  • Feet are on the ground, not pedals, for stability and safety.
  • Handlebars provide support and stability.
  • It is perceived as a bike, not a disability device.

Users also give it kudos for its portability. The 26-pound bike folds up easily for transport in the smallest car. “I always have a smile on my face when I’m on it, and it’s such a great feeling!” enthuses one Vancouver user. “Instead of sitting in the wheelchair and feeling a lot more disabled, this makes me feel like I’m on my way to becoming healthy again. I can just take it anywhere.”

When walking becomes difficult, the natural tendency is to sit more often, leaving muscles weaker and further reducing the ability to walk. The Alinker encourages leg movement by taking the weight off of the lower limbs. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun. (There is a warning about racing downhill on the website, which I would guess has been ignored by many able-bodied individuals taking a test ride.) In fact, they can be ridden in bike lanes as well as on the sidewalk. 


The company encourages potential purchasers to speak to their insurance company about the benefits of the bike, including preventing loss of muscle mass and mobility. Clearly, it has many health benefits for users and is likely to reduce doctor visits and complications. But will your insurance company cover the cost? Some insurance companies cover walking aids — but the Alinker is not yet a standard item that most will pay for.

More Innovations Coming

So, what’s not to like? The bike’s hefty price tag of just under $2,000 is a barrier for many. Crowdfunding campaigns and a rent-to-own program help solve the problem. And while many of the bikes are so loved that they get named by their owner, they are not particularly custom. They come in three sizes, but the color choice is limited to yellow, yellow or yellow. However, that will be changing and company founder Alink welcomes suggestions for a future fleet of multi-hued bikes. Also, the company is working on a bike seat that is specifically made for the unique walking movement of users to improve comfort. 

Finally, although older adults are a large target market, there are many children who could benefit by having the bike. The company is working on smaller sizes that would make it possible for kids to ride, as well as adults. 

People with disabilities and older adults with reduced mobility have an alternative to walkers and wheelchairs. One that allows them to remain active and encourages socializing by being portable and keeping users at eye-contact height. As lifespans increase, so should the span of active lifestyles. Alinker bikes will prove to be the bridge for many.

Click below for the other articles in the May 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Friday, May 22, 2020

Program Offers Jobs, Help for Older Adults

If you are looking for a job (or a caregiver), this company that hires older adults could be the answer.

It is unusual to find a business that is both hiring and helping older adults. Both aspects are particularly needed in these trying times. Seniors Helping Seniors® is a company that hires able older adults as at-home caregivers. With so many people out of work and/or sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 epidemic, it is a rare job opportunity that will likely persist in the changed economy.

"Seniors are one of the most high-risk demographics in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mandatory quarantine guidelines can take a toll on their mental health and wellbeing," said Daniel Jan, Vice President of Operations for Seniors Helping Seniors®. "Plus, with nursing homes presenting a major risk if an outbreak occurs, more people are moving their senior loved ones into an in-home setting to minimize exposure and ensure safety." 

Founders Rooted in Charity
The company was founded by a husband and wife team, Kiran and Philip Yocum. Kiran grew up in India. She admired the work Mother Theresa was doing and donated her allowance to The Sisters of Charity for many years before joining the Catholic nun in her work to help India’s poorest of the poor. She came to the U.S. in 1995, got married, and the two started Seniors Helping Seniors® a few years later. 

"The senior community needs our help, now more than ever. We are very fortunate to be able to continue to provide our services through loving and compassionate care to seniors and offer job opportunities for those that have lost work due to the impact of this pandemic," says Kiran. But she stresses that the relationship between caregiver and career they strive to create is not just about chores, but one of love and compassion. 

Company Needs Workers

Currently, the company is advertising for 1,500 older adults to join their ranks as caregivers. A flexible schedule is one of the benefits, and caregivers are matched according to needs, personality, and preferences. Part of the job is developing a warm, caring relationship with the person in need. Caregivers may assist by cleaning, cooking, running errands, gardening, mowing and more. 

For more information go to the Seniors Helping Seniors® website or for more information about being a caregiver, check out this short video from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

While Seniors Helping Seniors® is unique in searching out older adults to act as caregivers for their clients, many other businesses serving older adults welcome people of any age to work for them in a caregiving capacity. To find opportunities near you, search for “caregiving jobs.”


Monday, May 18, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

May 2 - Donatella Versace, fashion designer

The dyed blonde hair, the face that has been snipped and stitched a time or two: haute couture maven Versace is instantly recognizable in any photo, usually standing next to young models sporting her iconic brand. The fashion icon was born in Italy to a salesman father and a seamstress mother - great prep for a life in the fashion industry. 

Her older brother Gianni was the first to study knitwear design. Donatella thought she could help with public relations, but she wound up serving as his “muse and critic” (her words). It was a good partnership; Gianni promoted a perfume created in her honor, Blonde, and bestowed her with her own label, Versus

Giani died in 1997 (he was famously murdered), and a year later found his sister continuing his custom of mounting the runway over the pool at their haute couture show in the Hotel Ritz Paris. Her collection was well received, and she proved a PR powerhouse as she brought in names such as Madonna, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Love to promote her line. Her fame popped with the design of Jennifer Lopez’ green “jungle dress” for the 2000 Grammy Awards. 

Versace has kicked a heavy smoking and drug habit from the mid-nineties and has made multiple cameo appearances as herself. If imitation is the best form of flattery, Versace has a bevy of sycophants. She is still active on the social scene.

Image Source: Google

May 16 - Debra Winger, actress

You’ll remember Winger from her roles in An Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment and other iconic film roles. Today, you can catch her on Netflix in The Ranch. Hard to believe she started life as an Orthodox Jew in Ohio. Her decision to become an actor was made in the long hours she spent in a hospital bed recovering from a fearsome auto accident that left her blind and partially paralyzed for nearly a year. 

Winger took the traditional route and moved to L.A. Her role in Urban Cowboy opposite John Travolta in 1980 propelled her to fame. But by 1995 Winger was tired of show biz. “I wanted out for years. I got sick of hearing myself say I wanted to quit,” she remembers. “ It’s like opening an interview with ‘I hate interviews!’” 

She returned six years later to star in a film written by her husband, and also to begin producing films. Winger has diverged from film for projects such as a television musical performance that benefitted the Children’s Defense Fund. Winger is currently married to actor/director Arliss Howard.

Image Source: Wikipedia

May 16 - Olga Korbut, Soviet gymnast

The 4’ 11” “Sparrow from Minsk” revolutionized women’s gymnastics with her performance at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games. Previously a somewhat staid sport with an emphasis on ballet and precision, the tiny17-year-old showed off riskier feats of daring that required a honed athleticism not previously seen. 

Korbut’s charm played a role in catapulting the sport into one of the most popular at the Games. She started training at age 8, and quickly moved to a Belarusian sports school at the age of 9 to concentrate on the sport. Her coach there found her “lazy and capricious” at times, but with a supple spine and charisma to flare. 

A favorite for the all-around after wowing crowds at the Munich Olympics, Korbut lost to teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva after missing her mount on the uneven bars three times. Nevertheless, she became ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. Four years later at the Montreal Summer Olympics, Korbut was tapped to best Romanian prodigy Nadia Comaneci, but she was injured and didn’t perform well.

Today, Korbut lives in Scottsdale Arizona, where she teaches private pupils and does motivational speaking. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

May 24 - Rosanne Cash, Country singer

The oldest daughter of country music legend Johnny Cash, Rosanne draws on a variety of genres for her writing, recording, and performing career. She has been a prolific artist with 11 No. 1 country hit singles and a multitude of Top 40 hits. She also transitioned into a writing career, with three books and essays published in The New York Times and Rolling Stone to her credit.

You may remember her album The River & the Thread, which won three Grammys in 2015. Born in Memphis, her family moved to California just a few years before her mother and Cash divorced. Raised by her mom, Cash toured with her father’s road show for a couple of years after high school before studying at Vanderbilt. 

Cash got a contract with Columbia Records in 1978 and released Right or Wrong in 1980. It produced three Top 25 singles, including No Memories Hangin’ Around. Cash has been a huge commercial success while managing to raise a family. In 1990, she released a “brutally dark take on intimate relationships” with the immensely personal Interiors. A year later, she moved to New York City and divorced. 

Cash remarried, became pregnant, and found out she had a polyp on her vocal cords. Since she couldn’t sing, she wrote a children’s book, Penelope Jane: A Fairy’s Tale. Cash had brain surgery in 2007 and has since fully recovered. She supports a range of charitable organizations, and is often a guest teacher at several institutions, including New York University.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Financial Options Designed for Seniors to Remember During a Time of Crisis

The Coronavirus outbreak has had a significant impact on the bottom line for seniors across the country. People have watched the stock market drop, wiping out a substantial percentage of their holdings and income. But it is important at times like these to not “panic-sell” and lock in your losses. This situation is fluid and unfolding at a rapid pace. Markets are waiting to see how fiscal policy is implemented from Washington, D.C., and that could bring about stabilization and then recovery in the not too distant future.

 Chris Orestis, CSA
But in the meantime, there are still safety nets and even financial opportunities that can help seniors in particular. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments remain unchanged. Income from annuities remain guaranteed and unchanged. Money in banks is protected by the FDIC which guarantees $250,000 per depositor. Disability income from SSDI or disability insurance incomes remain unchanged. And financial opportunities for seniors, particularly those with impaired health and need for care, exist that should be considered.

Veterans could be eligible for the Veteran’s Aide and Attendance Benefit which can provide up to $2,000 a month towards long-term care support and services for the veteran and/or their spouse. A HECM (reverse mortgage) line of credit can be taken out by anyone age 62 and older to establish a credit line against the equity of the home. The credit line can be drawn only as and when needed, and there are no monthly payment obligations as long as the borrower is living in the home. With the Fed reducing rates to historic lows, now is the time to look at re-financing your mortgage to reduce your monthly obligation. For the owners of life insurance, there are a couple of options to get liquidity from this asset. If the owner wants to keep the policy in-force, they can take out a policy loan for upwards of 90% of the cash surrender value. If the policy owner does not want to continue paying premiums to keep the policy in-force, they could use a Life Settlement to sell the policy under tax-favorable conditions for a percentage of their death benefit today (and be relieved of paying anymore premiums).

Also, don’t forget that the tax deadline has been extended from April to July 15!

About the Author

Chris Orestis, CSA is President of LCX Life and He is a nationally recognized senior care advocate and expert in specialty senior-living funding solutions. The author of two books, numerous published papers and articles, and a frequent industry speaker; he is the innovator that brought the LTC-Life Settlement into the market over a decade ago.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Small Pharmacy Takes Down Big Drugmaker

I had a fairly dim view of drug quality in the United States going into this, but we’ve discovered tons of problems I never even thought of—and they’re all over the place. —Adam Clark-Joseph, one of Valisure’s founders

A tiny startup in New Haven, Connecticut has thrown a stone into the waters of drug formulation. The splash caused a global recall of heartburn pill Zantac, and the ripples continue to affect the drug-making industry. Online pharmacy Valisure bills its mission in part as bringing “transparency and increased quality to the pharmaceutical industry.” Last November, its scientists told regulators that Zantac and the generic form, ranitidine, contained a cancer-causing chemical.

The Food and Drug Administration confirmed unacceptable levels of the chemical, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) in some ranitidine products for sale in the U.S., including a syrup made for babies. The agency warned people against panicking and noted that many products made to alleviate heartburn did not contain the chemical.

“We know impurities in medicines are of great concern to patients and consumers who rely on safe and effective medicines approved by the FDA, and we are working with manufacturers and global regulators to provide clear and actionable information,” says Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “These investigations take time and do not provide instantaneous answers.”

Valisure’s Beginnings

The company started the way many do: one of its founders was a guy with a problem. Adam Clark-Joseph refilled a prescription for a supposedly identical drug but it didn’t work. An economist and grad-school student, he’d had some training in chemistry and was shocked when his doctor told him he’d probably just gotten a bad batch and to try another pharmacy. Was this really possible in America?

It turns out it was, and is. Together with business partner David Light, the two put their own money into a pharmacy that would verify the content of prescription drugs, many of which are made overseas. The results have been eye-opening.

Valisure makes its money by buying drugs wholesale and reselling them at a higher price, the way all pharmacies do. But what’s different is that they test every batch coming through their doors, on the assumption that there’s no other way to be sure of what clients are putting in their bathroom cabinets.

One of their first ventures was testing lamotrigine, an anticonvulsant. The lab has artificial stomach acid that can reveal how long extended release pills take to dissolve. In this case, some batches took more than 24 hours, and one took over 48 hours, in spite of labelling saying the medication would dissolve in 12 to 15 hours. Finally, they found one maker that met their standards so they could dispense the drug.

Another discovery featured rapid-release Tylenol that wasn’t so rapid. It dissolved slower than tablets with the same dose that cost a lot less. Not a health problem, perhaps, but seemingly misleading all the same. A spokesman for Tylenol maker Johnson & Johnson noted that the gelcaps were “rapid release” compared to conventional tablets, not uncoated ones. But how can consumers keep track of such minutia?

Drug Production

A lot of the hue and cry over drug production has occurred as it has moved offshore, driven by cost savings and lax environmental regulations, according to testimony submitted to Congress by Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Although the FDA evaluates drugs for effectiveness and safety prior to approval, a 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that nearly a third of foreign drug establishments licensed by the FDA had not undergone inspection. The FDA says it has now caught up.

However, many think these inspections are inadequate and too infrequent. David Gortler is a former FDA official who is now employed by Valisure as chief medical officer. He feels that every batch of a drug, especially those produced in foreign factories, should undergo testing.

“It’s really becoming a national health crisis,” Gortler says, “and eventually it’s going to become a national security crisis.”

If You Want Pills Tested

As of January 8, 2020 the recall on products containing ranitidine was still in effect. Check here for updates. If you’d like to use Valisure to check your own prescriptions, you can learn more about the company and contact them here or by calling 833-825-4787. Currently, it is the only U.S. pharmacy testing every batch of medicine it dispenses. It will also test pills that you have received from other sources. However, it cannot test medications paid for by government programs including Medicare and Medicaid, nor accept controlled substances, nor analyze biological drugs such as insulin. 

Click below for the other articles in the April 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Eight Forgotten Expenses of Retirement Planning

These surprise costs during retirement can mean canceling that dream vacation, or much worse.

You’ve reviewed your budget for retirement and you’re all set … or are you? Usually expenses go down slightly after your working days are over. There’s no longer a use for that professional wardrobe, you don’t need the gas to drive into work and you may eat more lunches at home. Your house may be paid off, or nearly so, and that’s a load off your plate as well. You’ve budgeted for taxes and insurance, groceries, some entertainment and the car … and you have a little account set aside for travel. What could go wrong?

Welcome to the world of “stealth” expenses, the ones most of us never plan for. If you think they can’t happen to you, take a look at the statistics: nearly 1 in 5 retirees, and 1 in 4 retired widows, experiences at least four or more of these events during their retirement years. If you haven’t planned for them to happen, the numbers show you should.

Tips for Managing Unexpected Retirement Expenses

Planning for these expenses is your best defense against them. Take a look at your budget and figure out what you’d do if they happened to you. Everyone should have an emergency fund, preferably assets, but it could be a line of home equity credit or reverse mortgage. Consider purchasing dental insurance to defray costs, and shop around among dentists for a good price. Long-term care insurance can help with this expense, although it’s important to compare policies. Learn how to say “no” to your adult children, at least for expenditures, if not for housing. Above all, avoid the use of high-cost debt such as credit cards and payday loans.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common financial shocks during retirement.

  • Home repairs. Many retirees forget to set aside money for a new furnace or roof, two common items that need replacing over the three decades or so of retirement. You can’t put off getting a new furnace when your old one quits in the middle of winter and delaying a new roof when the old one is leaking can risk damaging your home’s interior. Both of these are expensive and necessary, and more than a quarter of retirees report needing at least one.

  • Dental care. Have you priced a root canal lately? A crown? No, we’re not talking about a diamond tiara but you might think you deserve one for the price! Dental work is expensive, and you’re likely to need more of it as you age. It’s also one of the big three (dental, hearing, vision) not covered under Medicare. 

  • Long-term care. Many retirees think Medicare will cover them in the event they need long-term care. Nope. In fact, average medical expenses for a couple in retirement run about $285,000 before adding in long-term care. With rooms going for up to $8,500 a month, it can quickly exhaust assets and in turn force retirees to turn to Medicaid for help.

  • Divorce. Never think you are immune; good financial planners will make sure you’re set as a couple but will also make sure that each of you separately will thrive in retirement. “Gray divorce” is a catchphrase for a phenomenon that is increasing in prevalence, and the nest egg that covered two people just fine may not work so well when you need separate housing, or when one person is gravely ill. 

  • Adult children. Just when you think all you have to worry about is yourself, your daughter gets divorced or your son is overwhelmed by student loan debt and those little birds that flew the nest years ago come back. 

  • Widowhood. The sadness over the loss of a spouse can trigger depression, but what about the financial effects? If you’ve lost a pension or the one who handled your finances, it could be enough to throw your budget into jeopardy. 

  • Required distributions. Sure, you have to make traditional IRA withdrawals after age 72, but that’s more money for you, right? Not necessarily. They can bump you up into a higher tax bracket, taking a percentage of the money you were counting on to continue growing. This extra income can also qualify you for higher Medicare Part B payments, which are tied to annual income.

  • Replacement costs. The lawnmower quits, the refrigerator gives up, the deck begins to rot: all these replacement costs can ding your budget, especially if they happen at once. But when it’s your car, the amount needed can be as much as some couples spend in a year. 

Click below for the other articles in the April 2020 Senior Spirit


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Looking Our Best as We Age

Fillers, smoothers and lifts: Older adults may not be the selfie generation, but they aren’t shy about using products to look their best.

You’ve put on a few years, sure, but you still want to present your best face to the world. More than 4 million cosmetic procedures were performed on Americans age 55 and older last year, a 28% jump from 2010. But you’ve got questions. Are fillers really going to make a difference? Is plastic surgery worth the cost when you’re 60 or older? What’s the best moisturizer for older skin? More than ever, older adults feel like they deserve to look good, and there are more products than ever to choose from.

Aging affects your face in several ways. The skin and fatty layer underneath thin out, muscle support goes lax and some subtle bone loss may also occur. Decades of sun exposure may have left skin very wrinkled. But you can do something about it.


Botox injections, done with a thin needle, paralyze muscle activity temporarily. We’re talking frown lines between your brows, and the muscles that turn your smile upside down. It’s not terribly expensive, and it lasts for months. But wait, it’s only intended for use by those 65 and younger, according to the FDA. What gives?

No worries, boomer. Doctors say it is perfectly safe as long as you realize that results may not be quite as dramatic as they are for the younger population. We’ve already earned some wrinkles, and Botox is not going to affect your skin, only the muscles that lie beneath. For that reason, dermatologists recommend pairing it with fillers.


Best Moisturizers

As we get older, our skin becomes thinner and dryer. Even people who have never needed to moisturize their skin may find their arms and legs looking a little like shedding snakes.

But most of us don’t have the wallet for fancy preparations, and who knows if they actually work any better than the stuff at Target? Some beauty editors who specialize in products for people over 60 give us their tips on the best low-cost options to try:

  • True Skin Daily Facial Moisturizer
  • Ponds Rejuveness Anti-Wrinkle Cream
  • Aveeno Positively Radiant Moisturizer
  • L’Oreal Age Perfect Skin Renewal with Rosy Tone Moisturizer
  • Cera Ve Face and Body Moisturizer

If you’re willing to pay whatever it takes, some beauty experts swear that hyaluronic acid, which can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, is the way to go. Here are some products they recommend:

  • Revision Skincare Nectifirm
  • Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
  • Murad Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture
  • Revision Skincare Intellishade Original Tinted Moisturizer

Fillers are liquid injectables that plump up the skin where lines and wrinkles form. Everyone is different, but you may have deep lines from the outside of your nostrils down past your lips (naso-labial depressions) or lines around your eyes (crow’s-feet). Maybe you have those little lines around your mouth that suck up lipstick. Lung ads in the 60s told you only lifelong smokers would get those little lines. They lied. You have them.

But help is on the way! Trot down and get yourself some Juvederm or Restylane (which move into the layer just under the skin) in your lips. Injections last up to a year and will plump your smackers back up to their former selves. Those nose lines will lessen considerably when pumped up with Radiesse, which can last up to 18 months. Some docs like to start with a little Radiesse in the cheeks to lift up the folds so they can inject less filler in the lines you’re trying to diminish.

Fat Grafting

When fillers are unlikely to be effective because skin is loose, an alternative technique is still possible. Fat grafting harvests fat from another part of the body such as the belly or hip (yes!) and transfers it where needed. Compared to fillers, fat is softer, blends well into the body and potentially contains stem cells to repair aged and damaged areas.


Your work years are winding down or finished. Is it worth it to get a facelift? Gretta sure looks good out on the pickle ball court, and you suspect she’s had a little work done. Doctors say it’s not so much how old you are, but how healthy you are that matters. (Thumbs up to pickle ball). Get your regular doctor’s clearance, then make sure to get advice from a qualified, board-certified plastic surgeon.

You may be a candidate for a mini face lift, also called a Y lift. It is minimally invasive, doesn’t require anesthesia and can be performed during a 30-minute office visit. It consists of either fillers of hyaluronic acid or permanent filler injections just below the top level of the cheekbones. About a teaspoon of the substance goes into each cheek, deep into the soft tissue layer to lift the skin below. Effects last one to five years. Cost is about $1,500 to $5,000.

You may decide a mini-lift is not enough, and you want the longer-lasting results, usually three to ten years, of the real thing. Your muscles will be tightened up and excess skin cut off. The best surgeons are a little bit artist, a little bit doctor for minimal scarring and great results. Variations on the procedure can address different areas, such as lifting eyebrows or removing excess skin on eyelids.

Skin elasticity and overall health will determine if you’re a good candidate. If you opt for plastic surgery, go in with realistic expectations. You won’t look 20 years younger. You won’t suddenly be mistaken for Jane Fonda on the street. But you will look more youthful. Cost: $7,000 to $20,000.

Laser Resurfacing

If it is more the quality of your skin you want to change, look no farther than laser skin resurfacing. Safe, effective treatments can reduce the effects of sun, aging and some facial skin disorders. The laser peel removes outer layers of skin to reveal healthier dermis underneath and stimulate the production of collagen and new skin cells.

The best patients for this procedure want to remove lines, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation or superficial facial scars and have skin that is elastic, non-oily and not prone to scarring from minor injury.

What About Cost?

It can be harder to find out the cost of fillers and procedures than to find hen’s teeth in a haystack, but one Denver area clinic tells it like it is. Although the Happy Clinic does not perform cosmetic surgery, it is a destination clinic for fillers, Botox and laser work. Check out prices, and even specials, online.

As always, a healthy lifestyle is your best defense against aging prematurely. But there are times when we just want to feel a little more confident, a little more special, and there’s no reason not to investigate clinical help. Whether you’re headed off to a reunion, a wedding, or you just want to see a change in the mirror, it doesn’t hurt to check out your options.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, April 27, 2020

When Are the Self-Driving Cars Coming?

Robocars were supposed to be ready by now. Why can’t we use them yet and when can we expect them on the streets?

Car companies have been testing and perfecting for years now. We kept getting promises of self-driving vehicles chauffeuring us around by 2019, then 2020. Grandma and Grandpa have failing eyesight, and their kids are fed up with negotiating through traffic as cities and towns become more congested. Driving at night is getting harder for many older adults. Baby boomers are ready to sleep while the car does the work. But where are the cars?

Timelines Pushed Back

Tesla, Waymo and Cruise all had us champing at the bit, but they have pushed back their timelines. Leaders in the industry have revised their expectations after realizing how many details have to move into place before driverless cars are a reality.

In early 2019, Ford CEO Jim Hackett admitted: “We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles."

Avideh Zakhor, a University of California at Berkeley professor in the electrical engineering and computer sciences department, explains what happened:

“There was a sense maybe a year or two ago, that ‘Oh, our algorithms are so good! We’re ready to launch. We’re gonna launch driverless cars any minute.’ And then obviously there’s been the setbacks of people getting killed or accidents happening, and now we’re a lot more cautious.”

The Five Levels of Automation

  • Level 1 automation means that some small steering or acceleration tasks are performed by the car without human intervention, but everything else is fully under human control.

  • Level 2 automation is like advance cruise control or original autopilot system on some Tesla vehicles. The car can automatically take safety actions, but the driver needs to stay alert at the wheel.

  • Level 3 automation still requires a human driver, but the human is able to outsource some “safety-critical functions” to the vehicle, under certain traffic or environmental conditions. This poses some potential dangers as humans pass the major tasks of driving to or from the car itself, which is why some car companies are interested in jumping directly to Level 4.

  • Level 4 automation is a car that can drive itself almost all the time without any human input but might be programmed not to drive in unmapped areas or during severe weather. This is a car you could sleep in.

  • Level 5 automation means full automation in all road and weather conditions.

Flying Cars Are Coming

That’s right. Flying cars are no longer merely the product of sci-fi movies as partners Hyundai and Uber showed off a model of their concept vehicle to take ride sharing to the next level—literally—at the latest Consumer Electronics Show. The Hyundai S-A1 would carry passengers at 180 miles per hour. Looking like a cross between a jet and a giant drone, the SA-1 got a lot of attention.

“We’re looking at the dawn of a completely new era that opens the skies above our cities,” Jaiwon Shin, the head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility division, said at the announcement. “We will be able to fly on demand—just imagine that.”


Although accidents have been few and far between, driverless vehicles are held to high standards. As of the end of 2019, 41 states had enacted legislation or signed executive orders curbing the testing and use of autonomous vehicles. Some automakers are going beyond miles on the road for testing vehicles, and have added simulated situations that are rarely found in real life to prepare cars for the limits of what they may encounter.

Aurora CEO and co-founder Chris Urmson talked about how valuable this testing is:

“We can create situations that we’re basically never going to see or very rarely see. So, for example, we might want to simulate what happens as a bicycle comes through an intersection, runs a red light and crashes into the side of our car. Turns out that doesn’t happen very often in the real world, but we want to know that if that happens, our vehicles are going to do something safe ... we’re basically allowing the car to practice up in the cloud instead of on the road. And at the end of the day the training that happens online turns into better and better performance offline.”

Currently about 40,000 people per year are killed on the roads in the U.S., with human error responsible for 90% of those crashes. Some say that when autonomous vehicles are able to cause fewer accidents than the 50th percentile driver on the road, it’s time to bring them on. Tesla founder Elon Musk has said that it is irresponsible not to have these vehicles traveling when they are safer than human drivers.

Expected Arrival

“We expect Level 4 vehicles to be feasible in small quantities within the next five years,” Urmson said. “What that means is you’ll probably see hundreds or maybe thousands of vehicles out either delivering packages or moving people through neighborhoods, or maybe hauling goods on our freeways.”

Most experts think that ride services and package delivery by autonomous car will be here years ahead of personal vehicles.

“It’s going to be around that decade-plus before that is going to be an option for consumers to purchase a self-driving vehicle,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director, driver interaction and human machine interface research at J.D. Power.

In fact, a recent survey found that auto and tech industry experts set the timeline for having one of these in your garage at around 12 years, when less than 10% of all vehicles will drive themselves. Robotaxis, however, should be common by 2025.

Sounds like baby boomers will get to benefit from robotic cars, just not quite as soon as we thought. For the time being, look for more delivery vehicles to be operated without humans at the wheel. In short order, ride-sharing vehicles with no driver will whisk you to your destination—and you won’t even have to tip!

Click below for the other articles in the April 2020 Senior Spirit