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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Taking a Bite Out of Dental Care Costs

Dental care is as expensive as it is important, yet it’s not covered under Medicare. But there are a few tricks you can use to save money.

Check-ups, cleanings, x-rays: dental care can put a “dent” in a fixed budget even before anything goes wrong! Until the day when taking care of your teeth is covered by insurance just like the rest of your body, you’ll have to pay out of pocket. However, there are some tips and tricks that may help you lower the cost. 

Dental Visits During the Pandemic

You may well wonder how safe it is to visit a dentist during the COVID-19 crisis. As of this writing, the American Dental Association and the CDC are recommending dental teams weigh the risks of serving clients, but they are not stopping visits. Your dentist should be particularly concerned about disinfecting, distancing and wearing protection. Every office can operate a little differently, but here are some questions you can ask:

  • Will clients wait in their car or in the waiting room?
  • How often are surfaces and tools disinfected?
  • What protective gear will you wear?
  • Have appointments been spaced out? 

  • Dental schools. Students studying dentistry have to get experience somewhere, so most schools run clinics where the public can get treated for free or at a substantially reduced price. Anything from a standard filling to a root canal and crown can be done, but be aware that it will take longer than at a dentist’s office. Licensed supervisors check on each stage of the work. Worried you won’t be able to find a school? Every state has at least two, and some have over 100. Check the website of the Commission on Dental Accreditation to find one close to you
  • Clinics. Your local or state health department may get grants from the federal government to hold a clinic that charges a reduced fixed price or provides services on a sliding scale according to your income. They offer a wide range of services, from preventive care to tooth extractions.
  • Dental tourism. Naturally, you want to be careful where you’re traveling during the pandemic; staying safe is the main concern. With this in mind, consider a trip to Mexico, Costa Rica or Central America when it is safe to do so (and when Americans are welcome). They have dentists that trained in the U.S. but practice their profession in a country that is much less expensive, so the same care might be half the cost. Be sure to check their rating on the internet and find out what amenities the office has. Some border offices in Mexico specialize in older Americans, but there is a wide variation in care. Alternatively, an excellent office may be found in a town loaded with ex-pats, such as Ajijic or San Miguel de Allende. Do a search with your desired country to start comparing rates. Most offices provide a phone number and are happy to answer your questions. They are used to visitors from the U.S. and can provide hotel and transportation options for your stay.
  • Cash discount. Many offices will offer a substantial discount, such as 20%, for paying in cash.
  • Flexible spending account or health savings account. If you are employed and have an FSA, you can use the money in it to pay for dental services tax-free. Don’t forget that funds expire on an annual basis. Contributions to an HSA are tax-free going in and coming out, and if you use the Affordable Care Act for insurance, an HSA plan is likely available. Medical expenses, including dentistry, are eligible for reimbursement from the account. 
  • Dental discount plan or insurance. Dental discount plans are offered by a network of dentists who have agreed to charge less in exchange for an annual fee, usually about $75 (although family members can often be added for considerably less). After joining, you could save anywhere from 10% to 60% on services. For most people who have relatively healthy teeth and gums, a discount plan will save money over insurance. However, insurance may be your best bet if you have ongoing dental issues.

A Comparison of Dental Plans and Insurance

  Dental Discount Plan Traditional Insurance
Premiums   No Yes 
$12-$30 per month
Membership fees Yes
$75 single
$100 family
Copays No Depends on the plan
Deductibles No Depends on the plan
Preventive services covered
(exams, root canals)

Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers

Basic services covered
(fillings, root canals)
Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers
A percentage of the cost, depending on the plan you select
Major services covered
(crowns, bridges)
Discounted 10%-60%
with in-network providers
A percentage of the cost, depending on the plan you select
Waiting periods No Depends on the plan
Annual benefit limit None Yes
Pay dentist directly Yes No

If you don’t have an urgent need to visit the dentist, the best decision might be to wait and reassess in another four to six months. In the meantime, follow best practices for taking care of your teeth. Brush morning and night, holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the base of your teeth. Brush about a half a minute each on all four quadrants: lower inside, lower outside, upper inside and upper outside, paying special attention to any problem areas. Use fluoride. Follow the evening brushing with flossing. Avoid sugar and starches when you can, stay away from soda, and if you do smoke, try to quit or cut back. 

Dental care is expensive, but there are ways to cut down on the cost. Not all of these suggestions will be right for you, but you should be able to find a couple that will offer relief from a huge bill. 

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saving Money on Your Car

Your car is one of your biggest expenses. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to tamp down on costs.

Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” While he had a world war on his hands, our battle with COVID-19 is the crisis of our times. As many of us transition to working from home, get groceries and goods delivered and drive a whole lot less than we used to, it is a great opportunity to rethink how much we’re spending on wheels.

Have you looked at how much cash you’re dropping just to get around? The average American car owner spends approximately $9,282 per year on their car, which comes out to $773.50 monthly, according to AAA research agency. A lot of factors go into the cost. Type of vehicle, miles driven, and cost of insurance are a few. It is entirely possible to shave down that monthly bill. 

Should Older Adults Lease a Car?

You may never have considered leasing a car instead of buying one. But there are a handful of reasons that it may be the best bet, especially as we age. CarProShow cohost Jerry Reynolds shares his advice.

  • Monthly payments are lower than buying the same car.
  • There is no or little money down, so you keep a chunk of change.
  • A lease is easier to get out of in the event you need a mobility van or want to switch cars.
  • A leased vehicle comes with few extra expenses because it will be under warranty, and some companies cover the cost of maintenance.
  • A leased car will likely be a newer model and come with safety features such as emergency stopping and blind-spot warnings. 
  • It’s easier for heirs to terminate a lease contract than to sell your car.

Car Payment

If you didn’t pay cash for your car, then you’ve got a monthly payment. “Finance costs accounted for more than 40% of the total increase in average vehicle ownership costs,” in the AAA study, reported John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering & Repair. You could call your lender and refinance your car loan. If you can’t get a lower rate, extending the term of your lease will cut what you owe each month, although you’ll be paying more interest overall. Leasing a car that is wreaking havoc on your bank account? You could go to a site such as Swapalease or Leasetrader to find someone to take over your contract. 

Or, you could buy a car that costs a lot less. Pickups and SUVs are all the rage, but buying one is like purchasing a small house — only your car depreciates, and quickly. Most vehicles lose 30% of their value in the first year. You can avoid that loss by buying a vehicle that’s a couple of years old. Do you really need that pickup? They’re the most expensive vehicle to own, at approximately $10,839 per year. Switch to a small sedan for $7,114 on average per year. Oh, but you live in snow country and you have to have a 4WD? Think again. According to Consumer Reports,  using snow tires in winter beat out AWD cars that are more expensive to buy and service.

Car Insurance

Owning a car that is cheap to insure — i.e. one that is safe (think Honda CRV, Toyota Corolla and the like) — is a great way to keep insurance costs down. You can also pull your driving record by ordering a copy from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Check if there are any violation points or outstanding tickets. When your record is spotless, see if your insurance company will lower your rate. 

Most people like to keep the same insurance company for all their needs, forever. That’s a mistake. Some insurance companies offer great rates to 30-year-olds, but are not such a good deal for older folks. And all companies tend to raise rates over time because they know we all have a lazy gene and we don’t want to check around. Read Mr. Money Mustache’s blog on this topic. Call around every year (your birthday is a good time) to check rates with several different companies, and check for discounts like good driver, home and car bundling, loyalty and special savings by occupation if you are a public servant or engineer. 

If you drive an older model vehicle, you can often cut costs in half by dropping collision and comprehensive coverage that pay for damage to your vehicle if you cause an accident. Could you replace your car if it was totaled? Are you willing to bet on the odds that you won’t need to replace it? You can also increase your deductible, which is what you pay out of pocket. Research finds that, on average, increasing the deductible from $500 to $1,000 saves $200 per year. 

You’re probably driving less nowadays, and that can lower your insurance premium. Consider a pay-per-mile program offered by Metromile, Allstate, Esurance, Nationwide and Mile Auto. You’ll plug a measuring device into your car’s diagnostic port and pay by the mile. 

If your car doesn’t have an anti-theft device, check how much it costs to install one and find out how it would affect your rate. OnStar or LoJack may make sense, or you may get the same discount for etching your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) onto the windshield. Finally, most states require insurers to lower rates for older drivers. Sometimes, that requires taking a driving skills class, offered online through AAA and AARP. Classes cost about $25; in some cases, what you save will be less, so know the math before you enroll. 

Maintenance and Repairs

Don’t scrimp on maintenance, but don’t overpay. Follow the owner’s manual for scheduled maintenance. Most cars have reminders that light up for oil changes, and your mechanic should alert you when other servicing is due, but you’ll want to keep records and know when major servicing is due. 

Avoid the dealer for maintenance and repairs. Locate a good mechanic you can trust (word-of-mouth or Nextdoor are good places to start). There may be some advantages to taking your car to the dealership, but low pricing is not one of them. And before any repairs, check a site such as CarMD  to estimate the cost. That way, you can discuss the estimate with your mechanic knowledgeably. 


According to experts, you don’t need to buy premium unless it’s required for your car (find the information in your owner’s manual). A car with great fuel economy is naturally going to cost less. You can use a free app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel near you, but it’s not worth driving a few miles out of your way for pennies on the gallon. Your driving habits will have a much bigger impact: the worst thing you can do is accelerate rapidly. Driving aggressively increases fuel consumption by 30%. 

Your tire shop should inflate your wheels for free any time. Most tires come with sensors that will tell you when one is low, or you can do a visual check. Keeping tires properly inflated helps with both fuel economy and even tire wear. Tires should also be rotated about every 5,000 miles (a free service at most places where you buy tires), or whenever your oil is changed.

You may not need, or want, to take all of the steps above to cut down on your expenses. But most people find that by changing a few things — such as shopping for insurance — they can substantially reduce their monthly auto bill. And that can put enough wiggle room in your budget for a better night’s sleep, or even a vacation down the road. 

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Is It Time to Downsize?

We’re all stuck at home. Take advantage of it by getting that dreaded task, downsizing, done and over with. We’ll show you how.

You’ve probably been spending a lot of time at home lately. With all of your stuff — where did it all come from?! Most of us accumulate things as time goes by, and after years, or even decades, of living in the same house, it adds up. Kitchen drawers are stuffed full, closets are crammed, and the basement … we don’t even want to think about the boxes upon boxes stored there.

Perhaps you’re considering a move into a smaller space, whether to cut costs or reduce how many square feet you have to take care of. Maybe you’re at the stage where you realize that any possessions you leave behind will have to be dealt with by a child or someone you love. Or it could be that you are just feeling burdened by all of the physical objects taking up space.

Get Supplies Ready

Professional organizer Francine Yafta recommends having supplies at the ready before dig-ging into a project. Here’s her list of what to have on hand:

  • Bags/boxes: Different sizes/colors to distinguish between categories (such as what to keep, sell, recycle or donate)
  • Newspaper/plain packing paper/bubble wrap: To pack fragile items to keep, ship, sell, donate
  • Shipping tape: To seal boxes
  • Notebook/paper/pen/pencil: To take notes
  • Sharpies/markers/masking tape/labels: To label boxes/bags
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape: In the event design/placement ideas come while sorting through items
Note: For items that are not to be tossed or recycled, it’s easier to retrieve small items placed in small bags (i.e., grocery shopping bags and/or Ziploc-type bags) than at the bottom of a huge trash bag.

Help Is Here

We’ve collected some resources to assist you with various phases of the decluttering process.

Appraisers National Association. Find a certified, accredited appraiser in your area and learn what questions to ask when hiring an appraiser. 

American Society of Appraisers. Members perform appraisals prior to sales, acquisition, taxes and estate planning. Search for an appraiser by state, zip code or specialty.

American Society of Liquidators. Find an estate liquidator near you, and get tips and resources about the liquidation process.

National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals. Certified professionals who are experts at effectively organizing and sorting through anything from a closet to a house. 

National Association of Senior Move Managers. Helps older adults and their families through the downsizing and relocation process, including a list of trained senior move managers in their state. 

National Estate Sales Association. Offers multiple guides to improve consumers’ awareness around estate sales and selling personal property. 

Why Declutter?

Most of us live with some level of clutter without realizing that it can make us less productive, even triggering coping and avoidance strategies that can send us to the TV with a bowl of ice cream. In fact, research verifies that our physical environment has a big impact on our cognition, emotions and even our relationships with other people. 

There’s no shortage of benefits from cutting back on our possessions. It’s actually doing it that’s hard. The good news is that there are tactics to make it more bearable. Experts say that the first step is to give yourself plenty of time to get the job done. Weeks or even months may be needed to go through a lifetime of accumulations. 

How To Go About It

Start with the smallest spaces. You’ll be able to clean out a closet or your laundry room in one go, and the feeling of getting a space done will encourage you to keep with the task. Save the biggest areas for last. “Garages/attics/basements are notorious for being the hardest rooms to tackle,” says Debra Blue, of Blue Moon Estate Sales. “These rooms tend to accumulate all the old hobbies, boxes, old holiday decorations, and clutter. They’re also known to be rather un-comfortable spaces. In the summer it’s too hot, winter it’s too cold, and in the springtime, it can be too humid.”

Another tactic is to organize backwards, according to Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That. While a common suggestion is to separate out the things you don’t want, she thinks it’s easier to take everything out of a space and only put back the keepers. Whatever you do, make “yes” or “no” piles only, no “maybes.” If you start waffling, then all you’ve really done is move your stuff from one side of the room to another. 

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you might need something in the future that you haven’t needed in the past. “If you already weren’t using it, or didn’t like it, why on earth would you want to pack it up and schlep it to your next house?” says Hazel Thornton, of New Mexico-based Organized for Life. “I know it sounds silly, but people do it all the time. Moving isn’t cheap, either; do you really want to pay extra to move stuff you don’t even want? Don’t delude yourself by telling yourself you’ll deal with it at your next destination. No, you won’t.”

Difficulty of Letting Go

It’s not going to be easy to get rid of things. “It brings up all kinds of emotional issues,” said Su-san Levin, who has downsized more than once, and has been a consultant with Orchestrated Moves, a company that helps older adults and others with relocation and downsizing. “It’s not just moving things but the emotional letting go.” There may be times you need to cry or reminisce as you work your way through. That’s okay. You’ll move on. “You’re empowering yourself because you’re enabling yourself to make the decision about things,” said Gary W. Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center and past president of the American Society for Geriatric Psychiatry. “It frees us up when we discard things.”

Some collections may be particularly hard to let go of, but they’re just going to sit in a box. Those refrigerator magnets from all your trips, your child’s sweet drawings from long ago, the collection of teddy bears. Pick a couple of your favorites to keep and take a photograph of the rest, then put it where you’ll see it. If you have old-school photo negatives from when you were a kid, try hiring an outfit like Fotobridge. They can turn negatives, slides, or anything else that is scannable into a digital format that can be saved to your computer. 

What To Do With Unwanted Items

To start with, find out if there are items that family members or friends would like. Don’t be offended if there is very little they want to keep; that is often the case. Things that don’t have much value can be donated. Several national organizations offer to pick up donations, but be sure to call ahead to schedule this service. Make sure they operate in your area, and expect a wait. They are:

  • Vietnam Veterans of America
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America
  • The Salvation Army

Consignment is a good idea for specialty furniture or high-quality items. You can also sell on Facebook Shops, eBay or a number of other websites. Be aware that you’ll need to take photos of each item and fill in details. It may not be worth it to you. You can have a yard sale, but that is difficult during the pandemic. A good backup plan is to donate items to your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or ARC thrift store. Junk removal on a large scale can be accomplished by calling 1-800-GOT-JUNK.

If your house is full of desirable objects that have good value, you can contact estate sale agents. Be prepared to send them photos of some of your choicest items. Very high-end furniture, paintings and other pieces may be best auctioned off by Sotheby’s or another company that deals in the rarest and best. If you have even one piece in this category, it is an option worth checking out. 

While the process won’t be easy, if you stick with it, the day will arrive when you can declare victory. You’ll look around and see only useful, well-loved objects. You’ll open drawers and be able to tell what they contain without rummaging through. Perhaps you should do a little some-thing to celebrate with the money you made from the things you got rid of. After all, you’ve earned it.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Best Electric Toothbrush

Older adults don’t always do a good job brushing their teeth. Electric toothbrushes can solve a range of problems.

Older adults today are much more likely to have their natural teeth than their counterparts a couple of generations ago. Remember your own grandparents putting their dentures in a glass to get them sparkling clean? Baby boomers may have gum recession or dental work, but those teeth still need to get brushed to keep them healthy. For several reasons, an electric toothbrush is much better than a manual one. 

Your Options in a Nutshell

That’s the promise of the Y-Brush, the first mouthguard-style electric toothbrush to show promise, according to one reviewer. Developed in France, The Y-Brush looks like a mouthguard on a stem. It’s made from food-grade silicone and features bristles angled at 45 degrees as most dentists recommend. Apply your favorite toothpaste and insert the Y-Brush into your mouth to target upper or lower teeth. Push a large blue button and wait five seconds. Then, do the other jaw. Done! 

Actually, you can program the device to brush for five, 10 or 15 seconds per jaw. Best practice is to rotate the stem slowly from side to side while it is vibrating. The Y-Brush offers sonic cleaning. It is offered at $125 and is available only on the Y-Brush website. A fresh mouthpiece (with bristles) is $30, but because it’s so quick to clean, you’ll only need one every six months. 

Here are the pros and cons of the Y-Brush, according to independent reviewer Jon Love. Overall, he is quite enthusiastic about the device, finding that it did a much better job of cleaning his teeth than previous, similar styles. It did leave some plaque near the gum line, but overall it fared much better than, say, a poorly done job with a manual brush.

  • Surprising cleaning results
  • Ease of use
  • Automatic power off
  • Three modes
  • Long battery life
  • Fit of mouthpiece
  • Cleaning results
  • Toothpaste residue
  • Firm power / function button
  • Construction and quality

Older adults today are much more likely to have their natural teeth than their counterparts a couple of generations ago. Remember your own grandparents putting their dentures in a glass to get them sparkling clean? Baby boomers may have gum recession or dental work, but those teeth still need to get brushed to keep them healthy. For several reasons, an electric toothbrush is much better than a manual one. 

The Oral Health Foundation recently completed a study that found people using an electric toothbrush had healthier gums and less tooth decay and kept their teeth longer than those using a manual toothbrush. A study from the Journal of Clinical Periodontology found that electric toothbrushes resulted in 22% less gum recession and 18% less decay over an 11-year research period.

There are practical reasons to consider an electric toothbrush, too. The grip of an electric toothbrush is much larger than that of a manual brush, making it easier for arthritic hands to hold. The rubberized grip is also easier to cling to, and a push of a button makes the toothbrush do all the work for you - shimmying across your teeth for a deep clean. 

Caregivers who brush teeth would also benefit from using an electric toothbrush. It will give a vigorous scrub, the sonic action can help reach places the caregiver might otherwise miss, and it’s easier to hold. 

Three brands most often come out on top: Sonicare, Oral-B and Rotadent. 

Sonicare electric toothbrushes have a head that looks similar to a manual brush. Its high-frequency vibrating action transfers energy to the fluids surrounding teeth, helping to dislodge plaque in areas where the bristles are not actually touching. The most plaque is still cleaned by scrubbing, but this is quite a benefit. Sonicare developed the technology and all of their line, even the less expensive models, use sonic technology. Cost $25 to $180.

Oral-B features a smaller, circular brush head that rotates and is especially good at cleaning individual teeth one-by-one. The bristles on Oral-B spin very fast in one direction, then the other, and pulse in and out. Cost $40 to $120.

Rodadent is a brand many people are not familiar with. Like Oral B, the head is designed to clean one tooth at a time. The small heads feature nylon filament bristles that are a third the size of standard bristles, and their tapered tip head is unique in the industry. It features interior bristles that are longer than the others, meant to clean under the gumline and between teeth. Cost $105 to $136.

Electric toothbrushes have a couple of features that are especially useful: a timer and power setting. The timer, available on many models, beeps after two minutes are up. That’s the standard amount of time dentists recommend you brush; 30 seconds for each quadrant. By contrast, most of us without a timer brush our teeth less than 60 seconds. The power setting is also available on several models, and could be key to helping an older adult switch from a manual to an electric brush. The gentlest setting is less noisy and has less vibration. However, it’s always best to move up to the more vigorous power level to get the maximum clean.

Which Model Should I Buy?

The first consideration is how much you’re willing to spend. If price is the main factor, you could go with the $25 Sonicare. For $50, you could get either the Oral-B Pro 1000 or the Sonicare 2 Series. Both offer two-minute timers, rechargeable batteries and several brush heads to choose from. Another site that does extensive reviews suggests moving up to the $90 Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health, the Oral-B PRO 3000 for $100 or the Rotadent ProCare at $135. Remember that brush heads, which cost about $8 for the Sonicare and Oral B and $10 for the Rotadent, will need to be replaced about every three months.

What About Flossing?

Flossing between teeth can get tricky for older hands. Water flossers can help. The Philips Sonicare AirFloss (priced at $50 or $90) shoots blasts of water or mouthwash to clean between your teeth. WaterPik Water Flossers ($50 to $130) use high-pressure, pulsating water to get out tiny bits of food between teeth and will massage gums in the process. 

If those options sound a little pricey, try the WaterPik power flosser for $10. It’s battery operated and vibrates 10,000 times a minute for the flexible nylon tip to gently clean as effectively as traditional floss. 

If you’re not already using an electric toothbrush, it’s time to consider switching over to one. They have many advantages, from ease of holding to sonic plaque removal. Consider buying one to be an investment in your health. After all, something you do twice a day, especially something as important as taking care of your teeth, should be simple, efficient and reliable.
Happy brushing!

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Alzheimer’s Film for Family, Caretakers

This Academy Award-nominated documentary may be old, but it strikes a familiar chord for anyone traveling through the process of dementia with a loved one.

If any of you are caregivers or family of someone with dementia, this is for you. Some classic films stand the test of time. Casablanca is just as compelling today as when it was released in 1943. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest still resonates, and The Big Chill paints a portrait in time as fresh as when it was filmed in 1983. 

All of these cinematic endeavors were scripted and acted. Documentaries, on the other hand, can capture an era, a time and place, by virtue of being real and present in that moment. But time moves on, and often, the issue at the film’s core has changed enough that the film becomes a time capsule with only historical resonance. 

Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter

Sadly, in the twenty-five years since Deborah Hoffmann made Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, not much has changed for those with Alzheimer’s disease. There is no cure, no medication to stop the brain from changing. Because of that, the dialogue in the piece could be exactly what a mother and daughter in similar circumstances may say to each other today. If you are caring for a parent with dementia, you may get chills down your back just watching the trailer, where Hoffmann discusses her evolution from trying to set her mother straight to accepting her mother’s tilted perception and joining her in that world.

Hoffmann is the daughter in the film. Her clever, honest style and deep love for her mother ground the piece, juxtaposing her increasing frustration and hurt as the dementia progresses. “I was constantly looking for a way to connect, and a way to know what she’s thinking and what she’s feeling, and what I should be doing,” Hoffmann says. “But it was more like interpreting dreams.”

The film is not without levity; in fact, Hoffmann describes it as a humorous film. The filmmaker chronicles her mother’s Banana Period, when she consumes banana after banana, with no memory of the ones she has eaten before. And Hoffmann does come to terms with her mother as she is toward the end of the film. “She is the ultimate of living in the moment,” Hoffman says with pride. “She’s sort of the ultimate enlightened person.”

Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter is available for $4.99 on Vimeo.  Even if you don’t want to pony up for the movie, go there to watch the trailer; it’s worth it. Go here. 

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 2 - Linda Purl, actress

You may remember this blue-eyed blond from her role as Ashley Pfister on Happy Days, or as Sheila Munroe in the fright flic Visiting Hours. Purl also played Pam Beesly’s mother in The Office and Ben Matlock’s daughter for the first season of the TV show Matlock. Purl was born into the business; her grandmother was a founder of the Actors’ Equity Association, and her mother and father were both actors. 

Although she came into the world in Connecticut, Purl spent her formative years, from the ages of five to fifteen, in Japan. She performed in several plays while at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo, and caught the eye of Toho, which led to appearances in a handful of films. She returned to the U.S. to go to boarding school, garnering a soap opera role while she was still in high school on The Secret Storm. Then it was off to Finch College before a stint in England to study with Marguerite Beale. After that, Purl put dozens of film, TV and stage roles under her belt, even launching a jazz career.

The beauty has been married several times, all of them ending in divorce. You might have heard of her first husband, Desi Arnaz, Jr. (son of comedienne Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz). Their union lasted a scant year. She then wed screenwriter William Broyles Jr. for four years, followed by a six-year union with Alexander Cary, Master of Falkland (the pair have a son). Her last marriage, to James Vinson Adams, ended in 2011.

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 6 - Anne Henning, Speed Skater

In 1972 this speedster on ice broke world records for the 500 meter and 1,000 meter events, putting pressure on her to come away with a pair of gold medals at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. Only 16 at the time, Henning managed to come away with the gold and a new Olympic record in the 500 meter, in spite of being obstructed at the crossing by her opponent. Allowed to re-skate, she shaved her time from 43.70 to 43.33, making her the youngest Olympic Champion in the history of her sport. Her quest for gold in the 1,000 meter went unfulfilled, however, as she came in third, just a hundredth of a second behind the silver medalist. After the Olympics, Henning retired from speed skating.

“People know about speed skating, that was not part of the game when I won my medals,” she said later. “I wanted to go to college and see what else I could do.”

What she could do was to become a fourth-grade teacher and the mother of three children. Henning is currently retired from that profession, too, and lives in Aurora, Colorado. The grandmother of five shares retirement with her husband, Erik Palmer.

Image Source: PGA Tour

September 17 - Scott Simpson, Golfer

Simpson was born in San Diego, California, where the weather is right for outdoor sports all year round. The youngster took up golfing and played for the team at the University of Southern California, where he impressed his coaches by becoming a two-time medalist at the NCAA Championship. After his second win in 1977, he turned pro before graduating in 1978. 

The 6’2” Simpson didn’t disappoint, winning seven PGA Tour events from 1980 to 1998. His crowning moment was a win at the U.S. Open in 1987, his lone major win. He managed to birdie the 14th, 15th and 16th holes of the last round to breeze past Tom Watson by a single stroke, finishing three under par at 277. Simpson contributed as a team member to the 1977 Walker Cup U.S. team, and at the Ryder Cup in 1987.

In 2005, Simpson qualified to play senior golf, winning the Champions Tour title a year later. He is married to wife Cheryl. The couple have two children. Simpson credits his success to a passion for Bible study.

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 22 - John Brennan, CIA Director 

Brennan served his country as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under U.S. President Barack Obama, from 2013 to 2017, acting as the President’s chief counterterrorism advisor. He had previously served under President George W. Bush as part of his 25-year career with the CIA. Over that time, he was a Near East and South Asia analyst, was station chief in Saudi Arabia, and directed the National Counterterrorism Center. Brennan famously had his security clearance revoked by current President Donald Trump, whom he had harshly criticized. Brennan responded by saying, “My principles are worth far , more than clearances. I will not relent.”

Nowadays, Brennan can be seen on NBC News and MSNBC, serving as a senior national security and intelligence analyst, first appearing on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. 

His Irish blacksmith father emigrated to the state of New Jersey in 1948, where Brennan was born seven years later. A university student during the Watergate era, Brennan studied political science at Fordham University. He then got a Master of Arts in government with a concentration in Middle East studies at University of Texas at Austin. Brennan is a fluent speaker of Arabic, and his career combined a desire for public service with his avowed wanderlust. 

Brennan is married to Kathy Pokluda Brennan. The couple have a son and two daughters.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

CSAs On the Way!

Three CSAs, in “normal days,” are friendly competitors seeking to find appropriate senior communities for their clients. Eileen Lambert of Oasis, Nancy McClure of Care Patrol, and Erin Dwyer of Senior Care Authority started building their professional relationship several years ago through the monthly meetings of the St. Louis CSA Leaders Network. Each one has been a valuable member and contributor to this group, having worked together with all the local CSAs by participating in learning activities, building strategic alliances and forming ideas to help older adults . These amazing women were about to engage in a project that would demonstrate their caring throughout the local area to strained communities facing arduous times.

What started out as a national effort by Oasis Senior Advisors, delivering cards and face shields to senior communities, became a local effort formed by these CSAs. According to Erin, “It all started with a Zoom call on April 3rd, initiated by Eileen Lambert. Eileen was talking to me and Nancy about a senior card project idea during COVID-19 to bring some cheer to the community residents and staff who were left filling roles they had never intended to fill, nor had been prepared to deal with under the circumstances.” At that point, the three brainstormed ideas and reached out to the local skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care communities in the area. Erin went on to say, “Eileen, Nancy, and I took to our respective Facebook pages to spread the word, and the cards and drawings started coming out of the woodwork from kids and adults alike.”

Eileen Lambert was able to secure face shields donated by Digital Color Concepts and PPEs. They were also able to recruit the assistance of an Eagle Scout to create face masks. Nancy said, “I gave antibacterial soap from Sammy Soap (a local business that benefits those with developmental disabilities) for the caregivers at one community. We dropped off cards and puzzle books for the residents, and candy and Chapstick for the caregivers.”

The group, wearing masks and gloves, delivered and donated these items and more to the communities. They even made yard signs to thank the staff for all their dedication and to show the residences the love and concern for them. “The feedback has been nothing but positive and the communities have welcomed us with open arms, but we always follow the protocol of each individual community on how close to get to the building. We wear masks and hand off items with as little contact as possible to keep everybody safe,” said Erin. According to Eileen, over 1,200 cards and 100 shields were delivered locally.

Because of their generosity, Eileen, Nancy, and Erin brought a lot of joy to the staff and residents of numerous communities in the local area, making a tremendous impact on many during a time when they needed it most. They also became a source of appreciation and admiration to all CSAs.

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About the Author

Jay Kweskin is the owner and operator of KwesCare LLC., a care management company serving the St. Louis, Missouri area. Jay is the chairman of the St. Louis Leadership group and is the Leaders Network Manager for SCSA. Jay has also participated in the SCSA testing advisor committee and national conference programing committee.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Do Bacteria Form Your Personality?

It’s possible that the tiny animals in your intestines have a lot more influence over you than you ever imagined.

Your body has 10 times more bacteria than cells. This microbiome is diverse, containing colonies of 1,000 - 1,200 species of single-celled organisms. It varies from human to human and in the same person over their lifespan. These bacteria help us digest carbohydrates and synthesize vitamins and amino acids. But research over the last decade is uncovering a link between gut bacteria and personality.

An Oxford University study of fecal samples from 655 adults around the world showed correlations between the “big five” personality traits and gut ecology. What could not be determined is whether this was the result of personality influencing the bacteria, bacteria influencing the brain, or a combination of the two.

“Big Five” Personality Traits

This is the list of defined traits used by psychologists and known as the “big five”:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Factors Affecting Number and Variety of Intestinal Bacteria

  • Birth delivery method 
  • Presence of disease
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Use of certain drugs (i.e. antibiotics)
  • Geographic location of residence
  • Nationality
  • Normal physiological changes associated with age

Thanks to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research for the above list.

Boastful Mice Become Bashful

Work with animals has suggested that bacteria influence personality. "It was found that if you colonize an aggressive mouse with the gut bacteria from a shy mouse, the temperament of the mouse becomes more similar to the individual from whom they received the gut bacterial transplant," says Katerina Johnson, medical doctor and study researcher. "Therefore in terms of personality traits, it is a credible hypothesis that gut microbes may play a causal role."

In addition, the study was the first to show that babies fed breastmilk grew up to have more diverse gut biomes in adulthood than infants who were raised on formula. “This is the first time this has been investigated in adults and the results suggest that infant nutrition may have long-term consequences for gut health,” according to Johnson. Moreover, there is nascent evidence to suggest vaginal birth gives an infant its mother's microbiome whereas having an infant by C-section transmits more gut bacteria associated with the hospital to the infant.

Johnson’s work confirmed that intestinal bacteria linked to autism demonstrate a correlation with sociability in neurotypical people. People with autism often have gastrointestinal issues, a link that has engendered extensive prior research.

A previous paper co-authored by Johnson and colleague Professor Kevin Foster, both of the University of Oxford, suggests that sociability, anxiety, stress, and depression may all be affected by the makeup of our bacterial colonies. When stressed mice were given a transplant of certain Lactobacillus species, they become more congenial and their brains produced higher amounts of oxytocin.

Image Source:


You may be wondering if you can take a probiotic pill to fight the blues or become more socially engaging. Unfortunately, it’s unknown exactly what role diet may play in the process, which bacteria to use or the effect of underlying health conditions, so the answer at this time is “No.” What you can do on a frequent basis is consume yogurt, which is rich in lactic acid bacteria and has the added benefit of improving bone health.

And increasingly, the medical community is getting behind probiotics that target specific intestinal issues. Different strains of bacteria produce different results. The Clinical Guide to Probiotics by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics is targeted at practitioners, but with your physician’s approval you can consult it to find the right probiotic for your illness. The free chart, including dosage forms and clinical evidence, is available at AEProbio.

To work, probiotics must remain alive through manufacturing and storage. Supplements are typically superior to probiotics found in food products because of the massive quantity of organisms and stable environment.

It is important to be good to the tiny animals inside you. As their host organism, you should eat a healthy diet to prevent micronutrient deficiencies, common as we get older. And it is not a bad idea to use probiotics to restore balance after treatment with antibiotics.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, August 27, 2020

What to Do With Your 401(K) When You Retire

What to consider when you are retiring and need to make decisions about what you should do with savings invested in your 401(k) account.

You’ve nailed the savings game at work, and your 401(k) has grown into a nice nest egg. But retirement is on the horizon, and you have not planned for what to do with it after you have left your job. Transitioning from work to retirement can be stressful for most folks, and that includes making decisions about their retirement account.

One-fourth of 401(k) savers aged 45 and up had no idea what they will do with the account when they quit working, according to a survey of 1,000 people by research and consulting firm Cerulli Associates. And another quarter were going to put it in the hands of their financial advisor. Every situation is unique. Here is what you need to know in order to make the best decision (or help your financial advisor make the best one for you).

Check on Your 401(k) Payout Policy

Company 401(k) plans vary widely in what they allow a previous employee to do. More and more employers are giving past workers the option to “pay out X dollars per month,” says Steve Vernon, author of Retirement Game-Changers and a research scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity. Setting up regular withdrawals works well for many retirees, but some plans allow only lump-sum disbursements or partial withdrawals. If you need monthly withdrawals but your plan does not allow them, consider rolling it over into an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA). Here is a guide on how to roll over funds from a 401(k) to an IRA.

Your Options in a Nutshell

  • Accessing your 401(k) works differently after retirement depending on your age.
  • If you retire after age 59 1/2, you can take withdrawals without paying an early withdrawal penalty.
  • You can choose not to take withdrawals and let the account sit, but you will not be able to make contributions.
  • If you want to continue making contributions, you can roll the account over into an IRA.
  • Both 401(k) accounts and traditional IRAs require you to take minimum distributions beginning at age 72.

Verify Fees

Another reason you may want to consider switching to an IRA is to get lower fees. Some 401(k) plans charge a hefty amount. Ask your employer for details on both investment expense ratios and plan administration fees. Ideally, you should be paying about 0.20% or less, but not more than 1%.

IRAs are often held at a brokerage firm, with minimal (or no) administrative fees and 100’s of products to choose from. Expense ratios for publicly traded assets are available on the internet, or you could call a broker to explore fees.

Compare Your 401(k) to a Similar IRA

Don’t leave your money in an existing 401(k) if an IRA gives you better options.

  • Will an IRA give you better payout options than the 401(k)?
  • Will the IRA lower your costs?
  • Does the IRA offer superior investment choices?

Many large companies have a decent variety of investment options in the 401(k), including ones that are low cost. But it is hard to beat an IRA for payout options, low fees or sheer number and kind of investment vehicles. 

“One big reason why a lot of clients want to move their money from a 401(k) into an IRA is that the flexibility of investment options as well as distribution options kind of goes through the roof,” says Matt Ventura, a senior wealth advisor at Exencial Wealth Advisors, a fee-only planning firm in Frisco, Texas.

Another reason to choose an IRA is for consolidation. If you have old 401(k)s and other savings accounts, you can roll them into a current or new IRA for ease of management.

Income Stream

You will want to figure out how much you will spend in retirement (here is the cost breakdown of an average retirement).  Figure out how much will come from a pension (if any), how much you will get from Social Security and what more you will need to come out of retirement savings to make up the difference. 

Most brokerage firms allow you to request distributions as you need them, whether monthly, quarterly or a on a different time schedule. And in the April after you turn 72, Uncle Sam will demand that you begin taking distributions according to a formula, whether you need the money or not. This is true for regular 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs, which benefit from pre-tax contributions. However, if you have a ROTH 401(k) or ROTH IRA, taxes have already been paid and you will have no required withdrawals. 

In conclusion, the rules around 401(k)s are complex and vary from company to company. It is important for every investor to have a working knowledge of what they are and how he or she may be affected. It is recommended to get a second opinion from your tax advisor or financial professional when in doubt about the best way for you to handle retirement funds. Money management does not stop when you are no longer employed.

Tip: If your 401(k) holds between $1,000 and $5,000, your employer is required to roll the funds over into an IRA if it forces you to exit the plan.

Tip: If you retire (or lose your job) when you are 55 but not yet 59 1/2, you can avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty for removing money from your 401(k) at the employer you just left. This does not apply to any 401(k)s still held at earlier employers, and it does not apply to an IRA.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Helping Out: The Coronavirus and Beyond

Feeling helpless in the pandemic? Many organizations want and need your volunteer assistance.

Reading the headlines, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the pandemic. The problem is so large that it can feel like there is nothing one person can do, or that it is impossible to know where and how to start. But volunteering can be one of the best ways to get back a sense of control. What to do?

There are many ways to help your community, and it is not as hard as you think to find something that you will enjoy. In this article, we talk about a variety of ways to assist others through this difficult time. Some require training or expertise, but many do not. It all depends on how much time you have available. Regardless of what that number of hours may be for you, you will get a feeling of satisfaction knowing that you’ve helped your community through hard times. 

  • Many older adults are feeling isolated and lonely. If you know any in your neighborhood, knock on the door or leave a note. Offer to pick up groceries or a ride to essential appointments. On a larger scale, many communities are seeking volunteers to provide friendly phone calls to homebound adults. One such organization is Dorot. Based in New York City, Dorot provides weekly “caring calls” to battle social isolation.
  • While the pandemic is going on, there is still a need for blood donations to help people such as accident victims or people undergoing surgery. Modern techniques are completely safe and sterile, and free antibody testing is available for all donations at the time of this writing. Schedule an appointment through the American Red Cross
  • Check your Area Agency on Aging to find the local senior center for a city or county. You may find the center itself could use a pair of hands, or it can hook you up with local, state and/or federal programs such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Volunteer Match serves as a clearinghouse to connect organizations that need help with people willing to give their time and talent. They have thousands of opportunities connected to COVID-19, from homeschooling and literacy projects to virtual volunteering. This runs the gamut from grant researchers to finance and funding coordinators. Some positions are entry-level, others offer training, and a few require previous knowledge and/or experience. Most are flexible and will work around your schedule. 
  • Points of Light is the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Do you have an interest in music or art? Share it with an isolated older adult in “self-help.” Or perhaps you would like to man a crisis text line to provide emotional support for people under pressure from job loss or general uncertainty. You will be screened and undergo self-paced training before signing up for one four-hour shift per week. Other opportunities include scanning or editing books, translating texts, researching documents to expose human rights violations, or helping make the Smithsonian collection more accessible.
  • The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is always looking for retired business execs to support and counsel small businesses. Choose to be a mentor, subject matter expert, workshop presenter or chapter support person. Time commitments vary from a few hours a week to a few hours per year. You will get to collaborate with other executives while having the satisfaction of helping out community entrepreneurs. With small business taking such a hard hit lately, it is a great way to help the economy while making the most of your talents.
  • Contact tracing is certainly a (volunteer) job for our times. Take an online training course from Purdue University Global online at your own pace. At the time of this writing, the course (including materials, readings, assessments, a video and several practice scenarios) is being offered for free. Your passion for public health can help protect your community and reduce the spread of COVID-19. You may be able to get paid for this work. Check here for details.
  • Hunger in America is a reality. Nearly every community has a food bank for people in need. With millions of Americans out of work, there is no better time to help with a food drive, organize donations or distribute food to people who need it. Feeding America has an easy search tool to find the food bank nearest you. 
  • The unique skills of military veterans are sought by Team Rubicon, an organization that responds to natural disasters and humanitarian crises across the U.S. and the world. Disasters don’t stop during a pandemic, and neither does Team Rubicon, which continues to help with floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires and more in areas already struggling with the pandemic. 

As you can see, volunteer opportunities are only limited by your imagination! You may make lifelong friends, find your true passion, or simply discover a way to help your country during challenging times. Your contribution does count, both to the individuals you assist and on a broader level. Donate your time with pride and enjoy the experience.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors