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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Home Security Systems

Cameras, motion sensors, do-it-yourself or professional: there are so many home security options, it’s tough to know where to start. Here’s a simple guide to the best systems.

Buying a home security system these days can seem more complicated than purchasing your home. They’re all a little different, and it’s not like comparing apples to apples when pricing, systems, set-up, and monitoring are all so different. But older adults want to feel safe. We break down the basics and then give you the lowdown on some of the top-rated systems.

First, you need to think about what features you’d like. Here’s a list of common products you may need or want:
  • Video doorbell. Great for knowing when a package has arrived, or who is at the door.
  • Nanny camera. Watch pets or check in with a caretaker or aging parents.
  • Spotlight camera. Record video clips when motion is detected to catch intruders or simply light your path in the dark.
  • Door/Window sensor. Tells you when a door or window is opened to guard entrances. It can also alert you when a cabinet is opened, for example when someone accesses medications. 
  • Panic pendant. Wearable pendant that can send out an alert when pushed to let others know of a fall or other mishap.
  • Glass break sensor. This will protect you from anyone trying to enter via a window by setting off an alarm when glass is broken.
  • Motion sensor. You can use a motion sensor to know if an older adult is following his or her usual routine, such as getting out of bed in the morning. 
  • Smart home integration. Allows the security system to team up with smart home devices so you can control everything with a single app.
  • Wireless monitoring. Uses radio signals to connect home devices, sending alerts to a base station and then pushing a notification to your cell or monitoring center. Simplifies installation and gives continued service during power outages.
  • Two-way talk. Turns a control panel or security camera into an intercom, so you can tell a salesperson to leave, shoo the dog off the couch, or call for help with certain systems.
  • Carbon monoxide detector. Senses carbon monoxide and sets off an alarm. 
  • Flood sensor. Alerts you about pooling water to catch plumbing and appliance issues or flooding.
  • Freeze sensor. Alerts when temperature drops to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Fire and smoke alarm. Senses fire, smoke, or heat to prevent home fires from spreading.
  • Professional monitoring. Whether or not you install the system, you can elect to have a call center take emergency alerts. You’ll have a calm person to guide you and alert fire or police.

Next is figuring out whether you want to install the system yourself or have a professional do the job. 

Systems like SimpliSafe or Frontpoint come preprogrammed and ready to go. They will not have as many options as professional systems, but they are budget-friendly. Most of the equipment sticks on your walls, doors, and windows, so you don’t have to be an Einstein to set it up.

Professional installation can cost a pretty penny, but you can let someone else do the work. Companies like Vivint and ADT send someone out (usually as a free consultation) to discuss priorities, cost, and expectations.

Six Systems That Make the Grade

We went to the internet to find the top six systems:

Vivint Smart Home sells for $599 and $29.99 and up per month for monitoring. You’ll get professional installation with no contract, a trial period of three days, and a warranty that will last as long as your service agreement. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

SimpliSafe stands out in the DIY category. At $229 and up initially then $14.99 and up, it’s affordable and there’s no contract. You get 60 days to try it out, and it comes with a three-year warranty. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Cove offers either DIY or professional installation for an initial $219 and up, and then $14.99 and up per month, depending on options. There’s no contract, a 60-day trial period, and a lifetime warranty. It’s compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Frontpoint starts at $326.96, and you install it yourself. It’s $49.99 monthly with no contract and a 39-day trial period. It comes with a three-year warranty and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Abode is a DIY product that starts at $229 and as little as $6 per month for a very affordable option. There’s no contract, you’ll have a 30-day trial period and a one-year warranty. It’s compatible with not only Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but for all you Apple fans it also works with Apple Homekit.

ADT is the biggest professional in the business. Their kit may cost you nothing up front, with monthly monitoring at $27.99. However, it does require a contract so make sure that’s what you want from the get-go. ADT does offer a no-contract product labeled Blue by ADT that starts at $199.15 and $19.99 monthly. It is DIY. Both work with Amazon and Google voice assistants.

Finding the right home security system can take time. Do some research online, shop around, and see if you can find any special deals offered by podcasters, bloggers, or at the company site. The time you put into doing your homework will reward you in the end!


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Want To Live Longer? Move.

A new study has found that older adults who move from low-longevity areas to high ones can increase their lifespan by more than a year. 

Where you decide to live at age 65 can make a measurable difference in how long you can expect to live, according to a new study. “There’s a substantively important causal effect of where you live as an elderly adult on mortality and life expectancy across the United States,” says Amy Finkelstein, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics and co-author of the paper that lays out the team’s findings. 

Health Capital vs. Place-Based Factors

Researchers have known for a long time that lifespan is greater in certain parts of the U.S., a fact generally attributed to “health capital,” or links with smoking, obesity, and related factors in the regionalized population. However, scientists were able to account for those differences and still quantify for the location itself and its impact on longevity. Their report, published in the August 2021 issue of American Economic Review, is titled “Place-Based Drivers of Mortality: Evidence of Migration.”

“We wanted to separate out the role of people’s prior experiences and behaviors — or health capital — from the role of place or environment,” Finkelstein says. 

Zip Codes Matter

A couple years back, researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology paired up to look at how life expectancy varied on a micro level between individual zip codes. Their groundbreaking work found that in some cities, the gulf between dying in your fifties or dying in your eighties was separated by only a few blocks.

Factors like income, social class, and overall health appeared to be the drivers for the difference. Income and life expectancy are inextricably linked, although it varies substantially across different areas.

The study utilized Medicare records from 1999 to 2014 to examine U.S. residents from 65 to 99 years old, or 6.3 million beneficiaries. It looked at the 2 million people who had moved from one commuting zone (of which the U.S. Census Bureau defines about 700 across the nation) to another in the 15-year time frame. The researchers were able to account for a wide range of diseases and conditions using a standard mortality risk model.

One way to do that was to compare the outcome for two people who had moved from the same place to two different places. “The idea is to take two elderly people from a given origin, say, Boston. One moves to low-mortality Minneapolis, one moves to high-mortality Houston. We then compare how long each lives after they move,” says Finkelstein.


So where did people live the longest? Perhaps surprisingly, coastal urban centers such as New York City, Miami, and San Francisco had positive effects on lifespan. Some urban Midwestern cities, such as Chicago, also scored high. 

By contrast, many Southern states fared poorly, including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and northern Florida. Older adults also didn’t live as long in the Southwest, including in certain areas of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona. 

All told, researchers estimated that the health capital component was responsible for about 70 percent of the geographical difference in longevity, while location effects accounted for 15 percent. “Yes, health capital is important, but yes, place effects also matter,” says Finkelstein. 

The Charlotte Effect

While conducting the study, economists uncovered another unexpected pattern. Certain places with overall low life expectancy, such as Charlotte, North Carolina, have a positive effect on longevity for those who move there. Conversely, other areas with high life expectancy, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico, had low effects on improving lifespan for older adults who moved there. 

“Our [hard] evidence is about the role of place,” Finkelstein says, while noting that the next logical step in this vein of research is to look for the specific factors at work. “We know something about Charlotte, North Carolina, makes a difference, but we don’t yet know what.” Further studies are underway. 

One hypothesis is that regional health care practices may impact place-based norms. Health care utilization may also play an important role. “Differences in health care across places are large and potentially important,” Finkelstein says. “But there are also differences in pollution, weather, [and] other aspects. … What we need to do now is get inside the black box of ‘the place’ and figure out what it is about them that matters for longevity.”

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 13 - Alain Ducasse, chef

Want to cook like the famous Alain Ducasse? Americans can sign up for the cuisine of the Riviera at his tony cooking school in Paris, mon ami, for a mere $247.98! (Airfare, transportation, and hotel not included). Why? Ducasse made a name for himself when Le Louis XV, where he was head chef, became the first hotel restaurant to merit three Michelin stars, the highest honor possible. He was 33. In 2012, Ducasse held 21 Michelin stars, earning him a second place ranking just ahead of Gordon Ramsay. He was the first chef to own three restaurants in three cities awarded three Michelin stars at the same time.

Check out this Food & Wine article for some at-home versions of his famous dishes. Born in southwestern France, Ducasse grew up on a goose and duck farm, suckling on foie gras and exotic wild mushrooms. At the age of 16 he began his career and quickly garnered success. Perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to pivot from chef to manager and then expand his reach to cooking schools (separate ones for professionals and everybody else) and a portfolio of restaurants around the world. The entrepreneur has also initiated projects such as “Good France”, created “to celebrate the identity, vitality, tradition and diversity of French cuisine and lifestyle.”

Ducasse has furthermore put his stamp on a handful of inns and authored several cookbooks, including the famed Alain Ducasse Culinary Encyclopedia. His foodie empire has thrived, in part due to its founder’s business savvy. The French national became a citizen of Monaco to take advantage of that country’s less onerous tax code. But don’t expect a plate load of butter in Ducasse’s creations; he emphasizes local sourcing for meals focused on sustainability, health, and wellness. Salut!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 16 - David Copperfield, illusionist

Performing more than 500 sets per year all over the world, you may have seen magician David Copperfield in person. But did you know that he owns a string of islands in the Bahamas, or that he was engaged (for six years!) to supermodel Claudia Schiffer? That he was robbed at gunpoint but used sleight of hand to hide all his cash, ID, and cell phone? Or that he nearly died in 1984 while rehearsing the “Escape From Death” illusion in a tank of water when he got tangled in chains? All true.

Copperfield, born David Kotkin, began performing when he was only 10. At 12, he was the youngest child allowed to join the American Society of Magicians. By the time he was 16, he was teaching a class in magic at prestigious New York University. Two years later, he took the lead role in The Magic Man, the longest-running musical ever in Chicago. He created many of the illusions done in the show.

The famous magician also owns the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts. It contains not only Houdini’s water torture cabinet and metamorphosis trunk, but the world’s largest collection of “Houdiniana” — more than the Houdini Museum in New York. Wait, you’ve never heard of it? That’s because it isn’t open to the public. Tours are only available to “colleagues, fellow magicians, and serious collectors.” It’s accessed via a secret door in Copperfield’s Las Vegas headquarters. Notes Copperfield, "If a scholar or journalist needs a piece of magic history, it's there.”


Image Source: Wikipedia

September 22 - Debby Boone, singer

Remember the 70s? “You Light Up My Life” dominated the Billboard Hot 100 chart for weeks, and singer Debby Boone won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1978 following its release. While she never commandeered the pop charts with that strength again, Boone went on to a successful career in country and Christian music, touring with several musical theatre productions and co-authoring books for children along with husband Gabriel Ferrer. She also had such honors as taping “Christmas in Washington” with President Ronald Reagan and other luminaries.

Boone was born into a musical family. Her father is singer/actor Pat Boone, and her mother is the daughter of country music legend Red Foley. When she was 14, Boone began touring with her family, first as The Pat Boone Family and then as the Boones or Boone Girls with her two sisters. The sibling group reached the Billboard charts twice, first with a remake of a Supremes song and later with a cover track from ABBA. 

Boone married in 1979 and has four children. Husband Gabriel Ferrer is an ordained Episcopalian priest and is well-connected in Tinseltown: he’s the son of José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney, brother to actors Miguel and Rafael Ferrer, nephew of journalist Nick Clooney and (drumroll, please) cousin of actor George Clooney. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 26 - Linda Hamilton, actress

Terminator fans will forever remember Linda Hamilton in the role of Sarah Connor, one the actress reprised in the movie’s sequels. The actress was also nominated for a pair of Golden Globes and an Emmy Award for playing Catherine Chandler on the small screen in Beauty and the Beast. Most recently, the actress could be seen inhabiting the persona of Mary Elizabeth Bartowski on NBC’s Chuck

Hamilton grew up reading books “voraciously.” Her doctor father died when she was five, and she later acquired a stepfather who was chief of police in Salisbury, Maryland. She switched to studying acting after a couple of years in traditional university, but her acting professor had a dim view of her prospects, once telling her she had no hope of earning a living in the profession. However, she became one of twelve “Promising New Actors of 1982” after an appearance in the big-screen thriller TAG: The Assassination Game.

Hamilton has been married and divorced two times, once to Bruce Abbott and the second time to film director James Cameron. She has two children and has said that both marriages ended due to her depression and a then-untreated bipolar disorder that triggered violent mood swings. She has since gotten therapy for the condition. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Modifying Your Home for a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregivers are lifesavers who give of their own time to care for loved ones. If you’re a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you face unique, daily challenges. Modifying your home for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, whether a parent, grandparent, spouse, or sibling, takes patience, and additional changes may need to be made as the disease progresses in your loved one. However, there are a few things you can do now to prepare for the future.

First Off… Find Financing

Modifying your home for your loved one comes with a price tag, leaving you wondering how in the world you are going to afford the changes. However, there are various financing options, some of which are quite popular, like selling your loved one’s home or car, renting their home, or getting a home equity loan for your own home. There are other options as well, one of which you might not have thought of but is reasonably practicable under the right circumstances – a life settlement. These funds can be used to make home modifications or provide funds for medical expenses and daily living assistance. According to Paying for Senior Care, there are pros and cons to making this choice, so weigh the option carefully before committing to it.  

Other financing options to look into include HUD property improvement loans, community development block grants, funds from the Older Americans Act, or basic bank loans.

Small, DIY Changes

DIY projects might not be your forte, but don’t let the letters DIY lead you to think of failed Pinterest projects. Instead, think of it as small adjustments you can make on your own to your home to increase safety and livability for your loved one. For example, lighting can be a problem area for those with Alzheimer’s; shadows can cause hallucinations, and the lack of natural light can cause “sundowning” in the late evening, resulting in irritability, agitation, and confusion. By replacing your current bulbs with a cool temperature bulb that bares a close resemblance to natural light, you can compensate for the loss of light as the day wears on.

The Caregiver’s Voice notes clutter is another area that can cause stress for both caregivers and their declining loved ones. In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, your senior is easily confused and might feel as though he or she needs to constantly find something to keep occupied with, creating a state of chaos. Plus, piles of stuff make it easy for important items to be misplaced and for them to become tripping hazards. 

Spend some time decluttering so you can get organized and provide your loved one with helpful memory aids, such as labels on rooms, cabinets, and drawers with words or pictures to state what is in this room/in this drawer. The type of memory aid depends most on the stage of the disease in your loved one.

Tackle the Big Stuff

Break out the screwdrivers, hammers, tape measures, and levels to focus on renovating the big stuff of your home. Go room by room and focus both on what you can do to improve the safety and quality of life for your senior loved one. 

The combination of smooth surfaces, water, and soap make bathrooms particularly hazardous for seniors, so start there. Install safety products for help, such as grab bars, raised toilet seats, and motion-activated night lights. Add non-slip mats and a shower stool to make bathing easier on your loved one. Also check that the water heater does not go above 120 degrees to avoid burns when your loved one is bathing or showering without assistance. 

As for the bedroom, install additional lighting here as well and remove any tripping hazards. If your loved one is still somewhat independent but requires assistance with dressing, bathing, or toileting, you can use a bell or intercom system; you can even use a smart home assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home as an intercom.

The kitchen can be an especially dangerous place for your loved one, so you’ll need to modify this room as well. Start by locking away all items that could potentially pose a danger to your loved one, such as cleaning supplies, medications, scissors, knives, and small appliances. Cooking may still be a beloved habit of your loved one, but he or she might not be able to safely use the stove unsupervised. Have a shut-off valve or lock-out switch installed, depending on whether your stove is gas or electric; you might even consider upgrading to smart appliances that you can control with an app. If over time you notice a particular item causing confusion for your loved one, modify it if possible or remove it completely.

Outdoor Safety

People with Alzheimer’s or other memory-loss conditions are often prone to wandering, so making modifications with this issue in mind is a must. You might want to install window and door alarms to alert you if your senior should stray. For outside, there will be times that soaking up sunshine and fresh air is a welcomed joy to your senior, so consider connecting with a fencing company nearby to install a physical boundary in your yard to keep your senior home and safe. 

Contractors are notorious for scams, but you may need a pro for major projects like fencing. Learn what red flags to look for, read through reviews and ratings, and check licensing and insurance before you hire someone so you avoid becoming a victim.  Bigger modifications to your home can not only provide the safety and security you need, but when done properly, they can be aesthetically pleasing and can boost your home value if and when you sell.

Being a caregiver is often a thankless job, but the work you are doing is truly remarkable. Alzheimer’s makes taking care of your loved one difficult and overwhelming at times, but some joy can come from it also. You can’t stop the disease, but modifying your home makes life a whole lot easier for you and your loved one.

The Society of Certified Senior Advisors provides comprehensive classes and training for people in personal and professional caregiving roles. For more information or to subscribe to their newsletter, call 800.653.1785.

About the Author
Claire Wentz is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Household Chores May Increase Brain Health

Doing chores around the house — inside and out — is linked to bigger brain size, an indication of cognitive health.

Mopping the floor, mowing the lawn … household chores can seem like fairly mindless duties. But a new study shows a link between the frequency you perform those chores and the size of your brain.

"Scientists already know that exercise has a positive impact on the brain, but our study is the first to show that the same may be true for household chores," says Noah Koblinsky, lead author of the study, and exercise physiologist and project coordinator at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute (RRI). "Understanding how different forms of physical activity contribute to brain health is crucial for developing strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older adults."

Kickstarting Your Brain After COVID-19

Chronic stress changes the brain, and 2020 was tough on everyone. If you are in a funk after the anxiety and loneliness brought by the pandemic, we have six ways to start getting better. People with severe symptoms should speak with a mental health professional about talk treatment or medication. 

  • Exercise. People who exercise live longer, so get out for a walk or hop on a bike.
  • Watch what you eat. Nutrition provides the building blocks for neural connections.
  • Be kind. Kindness, altruism and empathy give life meaning and make us happy.
  • Rest up. Sleep recharges the brain and removes toxic waste byproducts.
  • Learn a new skill. Brain function and structure change when you learn a new skill. 
  • Be social. Staying connected with others decreases mortality and the likelihood of illness. 

Research Study

The study evaluated 66 adults with normal cognition ranging in age from 67 to 75 living in Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Canada. Participants had an overall health evaluation, structural brain imaging, and a cognition assessment. They were asked about how much time they engaged in household chores like tidying up, making meals, shopping, yard work, home repairs, caregiving, and other housework. 

It turned out that participants who said they spent the most time doing chores also had greater brain volume, regardless of how much exercise they got. Specifically, research found that gray matter volume increased in both the hippocampus and frontal lobe. The hippocampus has a major role in memory and learning, while the frontal lobe is involved with cognition. 

How It Works

It is possible that the study shows that people with bigger brains have a tendency to do the brunt of chores at home. However, it is well known that heart health and brain health are closely linked. Doing housework is similar to low-intensity aerobic exercise, which has positive effects on the heart and blood vessels. 

Neural connections may be stimulated by the planning  and organization essential to carrying out chores, even when we get older. It could also be that those adults who spend more time on chores around the house sat around less. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with poor brain health, among other negative health outcomes. 

“Besides helping to guide physical activity recommendations for older adults, these findings may also motivate them to be more active, since household chores are a natural and often necessary aspect of many people’s daily lives, and therefore appear more attainable,” says Dr. Nicole Anderson, senior scientist at the RRI, Director of the Ben and Hilda Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, and senior author of the study.

Next Steps

Researchers hope to use wearables to track actual household physical activity in future studies. They would also like to see if increasing an individual’s household activity would change brain size or function over time. 

In the meantime, maybe we can all think about chores a little differently. Instead of grousing about taking out the garbage or doing the laundry, take pride in growing your brain. 


This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical decisions before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Talking About Long-Term Care Insurance

It's important to use the correct terms and understand the available options when talking about long-term care insurance.

By Mickey Batsell, CLU, CASL, MBA, FLMI, CLTC, CSA

When someone hears or sees the words “long-term care,” the first thing that often comes to mind is a nursing home. This association has negative connotations for most of us, who assume that: (1) the only place for long-term care is a nursing home; (2) we never want to go there; and (3) we certainly do not want to talk about it. In order to have an open and honest discussion about the subject, we need to have a better understanding of its scope, and to phrase the conversation in a manner that creates a more positive reaction. It is helpful to educate your audience with some basics.

Using the Right Words

The first suggestion is to use the term “extended care” instead of “long-term care”. Extended care is assistance that a person needs because he or she has a long-term impairment.  The care can be provided in different settings, including at home, an adult day care center, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home.

The two types of impairments that require extended care are acute and chronic. An acute impairment is a sudden event that requires immediate medical attention under a plan of care created by a physician and executed by skilled medical and nursing staff. The expectation is that some degree of recovery is possible and, if treated in time, a full recovery is expected.

A chronic impairment is a condition that cannot be cured but can be managed.  Most extended care events are driven by a chronic impairment or a combination of chronic impairments. The chronic impairments that relate to someone needing extended care are either physical or cognitive. As these chronic conditions progress, they compromise an individual’s ability to get through the most basic daily routines, called activities of daily living (ADLs).

The six ADLs are: 
  • Mobility/Transferring 
  • Toileting
  • Bathing 
  • Dressing 
  • Eating 
  • Continence
A cognitive impairment is the deterioration or loss of intellectual capacity, as certified by a licensed health care practitioner.  It is measured by clinical evidence and standardized tests that reveal memory or reasoning loss. The biggest concern for those with cognitive impairment is for their safety.

The two levels of care that an impairment may require are skilled or custodial.  Skilled care is provided by a licensed physician, a nurse, or some other licensed professional under a plan of care created by a physician. Custodial care is provided by non-skilled personnel. This custodial care can fall into the category of informal or formal.  Informal care is provided by family, friends, or volunteers and is not paid.  Formal care means those performing the care are receiving compensation and are employed by a home care company or are licensed independently.

The Next Step

“I have Medicare, so I don’t have to worry about extended-care costs,” is something that many people have erroneously stated. Medicare is health insurance, and it pays for skilled care that is provided by licensed medical personnel, occupational and physical therapists, and other related medical costs.  It does not pay for custodial care of any type. In addition, it may pay for approved medical devices. This same response would apply to those younger individuals who do not yet have Medicare but are covered by an individual or group health insurance plan.

As we learned above, custodial care is either informal or formal. The cost of formal custodial care is paid for from private funds (usually by the patient) or out of a long-term care insurance policy, or a combination of the two.  The informal care is provided by friends, family, and volunteers. Although there may or may not be a monetary cost for informal care, there is certainly a physical and psychological cost that cannot be ignored.

Cost of Custodial Care

The cost of care varies by the geographic location of the person needing care and the setting in which the care is provided. It also varies by the length of time someone requires extended care.

Formal home care from an agency can cost between $18 and $30 per hour. Most agencies require a minimum of four hours per day. Many times, home care will begin with two or three days per week.  The primary motivation is for the informal caregiver to be relieved of duty to take care of other responsibilities or just get a short respite break.

If the need for formal care increases to a point where around-the-clock care is needed, then the cost can be over $20,000 per month. By contrast, the monthly cost of an assisted living facility is typically between $4300 and $6000. A nursing home typically costs twice as much as assisted living.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AOA), around 70% of people over the age of 65 will require some form of extended care during their lifetime. The average woman will need 3.7 years and the average man 2.2 years.  There is no mention of where the care will be provided, but a large portion is at-home care.

The AOA further states that if care is provided in an assisted living facility, the average stay is 28 months.  The average stay in a nursing home is 485 days. The AOA reports that 43% of the residents of nursing homes were there for less than 100 days, leaving 57% with a stay of more than 100 days.


There is no doubt that an extended care event can be not only emotionally draining, but also financially draining.  The key to being prepared for the possibility of experiencing an extended care event is to plan. Older adults should find a professional who can assist in preparing a customized plan that fits their unique circumstances.
Look for members of the financial services community that hold the following designations: CLTC (Certified in Long-Term Care); CASL (Certified Advisor for Senior Living); or CSA (Certified Senior Advisor).

Seniors can also ask friends and associates if they have a relationship with a financial professional who is competent in the extended care arena. Their financial services professional can also recommend a competent professional.

Guest author Mickey Batsell is an experienced industry professional who specializes in long-term care and retirement planning. He is also an instructor for SCSA’s Working with Older Adults course. Over 40 years of professional and personal experience have given him an in-depth understanding of the challenges his clients face. Mickey can be contacted at or call him at 512-260-0051.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice from a qualified financial advisor. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Gray Divorce Is on the Rise

Couples over 50 divorce at a lower rate than their younger counterparts, but splitting up is on the rise in this age group.

Expect more marital splits now, say lawyers, as adults who stuck out the pandemic together decide to part ways after a year of soul searching. “The pandemic made them think differently about their own mortality and goals in life, what they are willing to accept and not accept,” says Susan Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green State University. “People are less willing to stay in these empty-shell marriages that are not conflictual, but also not happy.”

The divorce rate for Americans aged 50 and up has doubled since 1990, and it is rising. There are many reasons for the change: the stigma around divorce has changed, both spouses may work and be financially independent, people are living longer and see a long retirement as a chance at a new chapter in life. 

Chicago psychologist John Duffy says that older couples he sees are not “drifting apart.” Instead, one or both partners are making a choice to find a more fulfilling life. They are reevaluating their relationships and are more willing to talk to a therapist about dissatisfaction in their relationships. 

What about Social Security?

Many divorcing couples wonder what will happen to Social Security benefits. Divorced beneficiaries can receive either retired-worker benefits based on their own work history, auxiliary benefits based on a former spouse’s earning history, or a combination of both. The rules can be complicated, so check online and also with the Social Security Administration. In general, if a marriage lasted at least 10 years and the spouse was fully insured for Social Security benefits, the ex-spouse can receive an amount equal to half of the spouse’s benefit. This does not reduce the ex-spouse’s benefit.

Create an account and research your own Social Security benefits at My Social Security.

Differences Between Men and Women

Duffy finds that older men tend to leave to pursue a new relationship or enrich one they are already involved in. They often say they have “fallen out of love” with their wife. Women, on the other hand, are looking for new experiences that may not involve a partner; they are searching out new adventures and opportunities. They may report that their husband is less energetic, while they still feel young and vibrant. 

Women may face more difficulties financially with a divorce, while men are more likely to suffer socially. Women generally earn less than men, start retirement with less saved than men their age, and live longer than men. Post-divorce, the average woman’s income falls by more than a fifth and may never recover. According to research conducted by the Social Security Administration, about a fifth of divorced women 65 and older live in poverty, and divorced women are less financially secure than married or widowed women.

Women are more likely to have stayed at home with the kids while an executive spouse earned a big salary. But “the court system is not kind when it comes to alimony and maintenance,” says Lisa Zeiderman, a matrimonial attorney. “Women may find themselves forced to scramble for low-paying positions and build a career as they head toward age 60 or more.”  

What can women do post-divorce? They need to understand their financial position: their expenses, assets and income, and how to make sound decisions. “The best way to get the needed information is to work with a fee-only, fiduciary financial adviser,” says Avani Ramnani, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®. “Financial advisers can help with post-divorce retirement planning and craft income strategies to help you maintain your financial security.”

Splitting the Assets

Late-in-life divorces can be more complicated than those earlier on. After all, they often include retirement benefits, changing beneficiaries, how to handle health insurance Medicare benefits, healthcare expenses, and possibly multiple support obligations. The dependent spouse may stress over a lack of ability to get a job late in life, while the supporting spouse may worry about his or her ability to maintain support in a slowing career or at retirement. Nicole Sodoma is the founder of a family and separation law firm. She underlines the need for separating couples to understand their retirement benefits and how they can be distributed. 

According to Sodoma, often a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is one way to divide certain retirement plans. It may be necessary, depending on the type of plan being split. She also highlights the need to check beneficiaries on remaining accounts. The spouse is often the default benefactor on accounts but is seldom the preferred person to inherit after a divorce. 

Making It Easier

Divorce can be accomplished through mediation, says Elliot Green, a family law attorney in New York City. “The benefit is that you’re in court but you can see a trained mediator who can help you with things that are sticking points: child support, spousal support, a division of an asset. They’re trained and they’re employed by the court.”

Of course, mediation is not an option in cases of domestic violence due to the imbalance of power present in the relationship. But in most cases, mediation is a useful tool for resolving sticking points and moving cases through the courts faster. As Green notes, “The longer you fight, the more the attorneys make and the less you keep for yourself.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

What About Cryptocurrencies?

Bitcoin, Ethereum, Coinbase, crypto mining: a quick guide to what it is and what it may become. 

You’ve been hearing a lot about digital currencies lately. A tweet by Elon Musk can make the price of Dogecoin skyrocket, or send Bitcoin plummeting. You feel like you should know more about it, but the results are confusing. Let’s shed a little light on cryptocurrency.

What is Ethereum?

According to Wikipedia, Ethereum is a decentralized, open-source blockchain with smart contract functionality. Ether (sometimes also referred to as Ethereum) is the native cryptocurrency of the platform. After Bitcoin, it is the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization. Ethereum is the most actively used blockchain, while Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency.

Does Crypto Belong in Your 401(k)?

Crypto may be coming soon to your retirement account. In July, one small provider covering 70,000 employees began offering the option to invest up to 5% of each account in cryptocurrencies. A plus for long-term holders is the opportunity to invest pretax money. Another positive may the 5% limit, so workers cannot go all-in and potentially lose the lot. It’s expected to be particularly attractive to millennials.

“It’s almost a better option for the at-home investor who’s not going to be watching the market every day,” says Leanna Haakons, founder of Black Hawk Financial. “Give them the exposure, give them the opportunity to have some of those potentially incredible gains, but give them guide rails they can’t go outside of.”

Blockgeeks is a good place to start. Here are a few basics from the site, along with some additional explanation: 
What is cryptocurrency? Cryptocurrency is an internet-based medium of exchange that uses cryptographic functions (written codes) to conduct financial transactions. Cryptocurrencies leverage blockchain technology to gain decentralization, transparency and immutability (transactions cannot be changed over time). At its simplest, it is digital money created from code.

How is cryptocurrency sent and received? It can be sent directly between two parties via the use of private and public keys. These transfers require minimal processing, potentially avoiding the fees charged by traditional financial institutions. 

What is cryptocurrency mining? When a computer is used to solve cryptographic puzzles in order to build blocks, miners are rewarded with cryptocurrency. Blocks are generated about every 10 minutes by the user who guesses closest to a very large, random number. Rewards trend toward zero, ensuring there is a limit on the amount of currency. For example. The maximum amount of Bitcoin is 21 million. 

Will Crypto Replace Cash?

Cryptocurrency was created to buy goods and services, and many companies now take the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, in payment. Electric vehicle maker Tesla famously accepted payment in Bitcoin, then didn’t, then did again. Other cryptos in the news are Dogecoin and Ethereum. Here’s a complete list and prices of cryptocurrencies

One of crypto’s advantages is that it grants users anonymity. But that can be a disadvantage when it comes to criminal activity. A 2019 study found that about 46% of all Bitcoin transactions involved illegal actions such as money laundering, buying drugs, and blackmail and extortion schemes. Recently, the Justice Department was able to recover $2.3 million of a ransom paid by Colonial Pipeline Co. in Bitcoin. A special agent tracked the money on a publicly visible ledger to a virtual address, where the FBI was able to gain access to the crypto. Whether this bodes ill for criminals in the future is a closely guarded secret of the new Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force. 

Regardless, the argument over whether crypto will replace cash is a complicated one involving the three roles currency plays: a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account. Opinions differ on this complicated theoretical projection. For a detailed analysis, look here

Trading Crypto

Many (if not most) people are not interested in these unregulated, volatile currencies as payment. They want to speculate by buying a currency and hoping that the price will go higher. But what can go up can also go down. For example, Bitcoin reached a new high of almost $65,000 in April, but then lost almost half that value by May. 

For those who want to trade Bitcoin, the easiest method is through an online exchange such as Binance, Coinbase, Gemini or Kraken. You can even use a credit card for the purchase! There is usually a fee for each transaction, and the price will fluctuate over time and vary between companies, much like when you had to pay to exchange money while traveling between countries with different currencies back in the days when everyone used travelers checks and cash. 

These exchange platforms create a digital wallet for you. Your digital wallet is where you keep your public and private keys for your crypto. The public key can be shared with others so they can send you currency (think Venmo). But your private key should be guarded with care; it’s what allows you to send crypto out to others. Secure it on a thumb drive or write it down somewhere only you can find it. 

Coinbase and other companies that accept crypto (such as, ticker symbol OSTK) are publicly traded. Buying stock in one of these entities is a way to bet on crypto indirectly. Robinhood Crypto is an exchange platform where you buy and sell a number of cryptocurrencies 24/7. 

Should You Buy Crypto?

More important than if you can or how you should buy cryptocurrencies is IF you should. Investments carry inherent risk, and cryptocurrencies have more than their share. As an example, China has recently and suddenly cracked down on crypto in an effort to keep control of the country’s financial engines, causing the price to drop worldwide. The price of crypto is incredibly volatile. It is not money. It has no value, unlike gold. You should not invest more in crypto than you can afford to lose. For a deeper look at the risks, read this Forbes article on crypto.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

10 Best Activities to Try

It’s time to shake it up with a new activity. Make friends, learn something, laugh!

We can all get stuck in a rut, especially with winter around the corner. It’s easy to keep doing the same old things we’ve always done, with the same people. But research shows it’s good for the brain to learn something new. Learning stimulates neurons to form pathways, and the more pathways that are formed, the faster information can travel. 

On top of boosting cognitive skills, taking on a new pastime can boost mental well-being and self-confidence. Whether it’s birdwatching, an art class, or reading up on the Civil War, learning increases your sense of purpose and triggers release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. Taking a class in kayaking or learning how to code can lessen stress and build self-esteem. 

Joining a class or group can also boost social skills that may be rusty after the pandemic. Meeting new people, participating in conversations and discussions can all work to keep social skills at their best. Who knows, it may lead to a new friendship or even a job.

So, no excuses! Here are 10 great activities to get you learning.

  1. Life Story Groups. Take a class in putting down your life story via writing, a video or an oral history. Join a Facebook group or start one of your own at your local library or writer’s group. Collect photographs or old film clips and create a history that your family can share through the generations. 
  2. Play Picasso. Whether you join a local artists’ group or study one of the Masters, it’s fun to get creative. Check out offerings at your local arts and craft store, look for a group of plein air (outdoor) painters, search out instruction in watercolor, or find a pottery class. You could even order a tray of watercolors and some paper and then YouTube the hundreds of instructional videos available online. Invite a friend over and paint together, or start a local group of painters, potters or multimedia artists.
  3. Walking Club. Find a local venue or venues to stroll for better health and to make new friends. Maybe it’s the same local park, or you could rotate spots on a weekly basis. Any area with a sidewalk or walking trail can work. Your local cemetery can be a perfect spot to walk and learn some history by researching graves. Consider creating a carpool or providing transportation for members who can’t drive. 
  4. Dancing. Anyone, even those with two left feet, can have fun learning to dance. You may choose to take classes in a studio or go to a local honky tonk for line dancing. Beginners can brush up by practicing with YouTube. Ballet, tap, ballroom … dance will get you moving and engage your mind. And older gentlemen are always in demand as partners!
  5. Take a Class. There’s no excuse not to follow your interests in the classroom now that many universities offer free classes. For the business-minded older adult who may be interested in gaining career skills, Coursera partners with more than 200 universities and leading companies to offer studies in everything from business to cloud engineering. Coursera even offers quizzes so you can see if you’re absorbing the information, and you can earn professional certificates. If you’re more interested in botany or art, simply google “free university class (subject)” to find online offerings. You can also find wonderful classes on a wide variety of subjects via the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. There are no tests or grades, and classes are specifically for adults aged 50 and above. 
  6. Stretch. Anyone can increase mobility, flexibility and endurance by regular stretching. Even better, you can throw in a stretch or two anytime during the day: when you wake up in the morning (that’s right, you can stretch in bed!), during a commercial break, after lunch, after bathing — it doesn’t matter. You can start with these stretches for flexibility, but feel free to search for specific stretches, such as those for the lower back. Another way to stretch is through yoga, which will also improve balance and concentration. There are literally thousands of free classes online, or you can search for local classes to add the element of human connection.
  7. Volunteer. How about walking dogs at the local shelter, or sitting with lonely cats? You can lead museum tours, hand out literature, guide nature walks, distribute food donations or help out with hundreds of other tasks. Find your passion at Volunteer Match and get started making friends and sharing your gifts. 
  8. Work Out. Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym, today’s recreation centers welcome older adults. There may be discounted pricing or even free membership if your health insurance includes Silver Sneakers. Rec centers usually offer a wide variety of classes in addition to weight and equipment areas. Employees will show novices how to use machines, and group classes offer the possibility of new friends along with aerobic exercise. Self-conscious individuals can hang out at the back of the class to start, but inclusion is the name of the game nowadays. You will find people with a wide range of body types and athletic interests.
  9. Join a Club. Do you like to quilt, collect stamps, play Monopoly or picnic? Check out your local MeetUp groups to find one (or more!) that matches your interests. Have you always wanted to use a metal detector? Hike? Travel to great birdwatching spots? Go to gourmet restaurants? There’s a wide variety of free groups just waiting to welcome you into their midst. 
  10. Learn a Language. It’s so easy to spend five or ten minutes a day with a free app like Duolingo that will even send you reminders to study. You will learn simple, practical phrases that are useful whether you are traveling or engaging locally with other speakers. Lessons are short and entertaining … not like the ones you may have endured in high school! 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 3 - Todd Christensen, NFL player and sportscaster

A fantastic athlete from his youth, Todd Christensen had an outstanding career as tight end for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. After signing with them in 1979 he became a key player on special teams, finally agreeing to play tight end. After three so-so seasons, he shined in 1982 when he caught 42 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns in a season cut short by a strike. The next year, he caught 92 passes for 1247 yards and twelve touchdowns and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, the first of five. 

Christensen was an athletically talented kid, setting world records in track and field events when he was nine years old. He got selected in the 1974 draft for Major League Baseball, but instead headed to Brigham Young University to play football. He started all four years at fullback and was an All-Western Athletic Conference selection his last year. His degree was in social work, and Christensen enjoyed scholarly works and a broad vocabulary. He was known to quote famous authors and even recite poems he’d written, a skill that helped him fit in after he was signed by the Raiders.

After several strong seasons, Christensen missed more than half of his last year due to injuries. Catching 349 receptions from 1983 to the end of 1986, he set an NFL record. After his career on the gridiron, Christensen turned to his old love, track and field, where he set age-group world records in the Heptathlon at the Master’s level and was the top decathlete in the world for ages 45 and above. He also made a second career as a sportscaster, working for NBC Sports, ESPN and CBS Sports Network for both professional and collegiate games. 

Christensen was married with four sons. He passed away on November 13, 2013 due to complications from liver transplant surgery after suffering from liver disease for two years, the result of a botched gallbladder surgery 25 years earlier. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 5 - Maureen McCormick, actress

“And that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch!”
Every baby boomer will recognize the song lyrics above from the popular television show, The Brady Bunch, that ran from 1969 to 1974, and for countless years of reruns after that where Maureen McCormick played Marcia Brady. 

McCormick spent years after the show struggling with drug abuse, depression and an eating disorder. She did appear in a large number of Brady spin-offs and revivals, and even released a country music album. 

McCormick married in 1985 and began to work at sobering up. She appeared in small roles in film and television products, but her struggles with addiction and depression often left her out of the running on bigger projects. Since 2007, she found some footing in reality shows, and was an individual winner of the 2007 Celebrity Fit Club. She lost 34 pounds that she’d put on after her mother died of cancer and she had to move her disabled brother into an assisted living facility. 


Image Source: Wikipedia

August 21 - Kim Cattrall, actress

Best known for her role as Samantha in Sex and the City, Kim Cattrall is a veteran of a vast number of films and television productions. Her first movie role was in 1975’s action thriller Rosebud. Most recently, she returned to TV in Filthy Rich to play Margaret Monreaux, the mother of a Southern family that has created a fortune via a Christian television network. Cattrall also produces the series, for which she won the Icon Award at the 2020 Atlanta TV festival.

Cattrall was raised alternately in Liverpool and Canada. She left home at 16 for New York City and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The rest, as they say, is history. Most of us know her via Sex and the City, which ran from 1998 to 2004. Cosmopolitan, anyone? She garnered five nominations for an Emmy Award and four for a Golden Globe Award for her work on the show and won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in 2002. 

Cattrall has been married three times, and has been dating Russell Thomas since 2016. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 31 - Tsai Ing-wen, 7th president of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

The first female president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen grew up in Taipei and was a student of law and international trade. She earned a Ph.D. in law from the University of London. Her policies support a strong and stable relationship with the United States. 

Tsai supports “freedom and democracy” for Taiwanese citizens apropos to “cross-strait” relations with mainland China. When a Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate died in government custody, Tsai urged China to “show confidence in engaging in political reform so that the Chinese can enjoy the God-given rights of freedom and democracy.” And when the General secretary of the Communist Party of China proposed a “one country, two systems” approach for eventual unification of China and Taiwan, Tsai stood solidly behind Hong Kong protesters and stated she would never accept such a policy.

Tsai is also supportive of disadvantaged social groups including the poor, women, and children. Tsai herself is descended in part from Hakka people and native aborigines. She has adopted a plurality of national languages and supports LGBTQ rights. 

Tsai wants to transition the country toward high-tech industries including semiconductors, cybersecurity, biotechnology, and healthcare. She also champions a strong defense sector and military spending has risen each year under her administration. In 2020, the country produced its first rapid mine-laying ship and began work on a diesel submarine. The first amphibious transport dock produced in Taiwan came out in April 2021. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors