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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The 10 Aches and Pains You Shouldn’t Ignore

Have you ever wondered which aches and pains you should ignore, and which ones should trigger a visit to your doctor or the ER? Here’s how to tell the difference.

Signs You’re Having a Heart Attack

Women and men often experience a heart attack quite differently, which can lead to under-diagnosis in female victims. It’s important to know all of the symptoms for men and women so that you don’t accidentally ignore important warning signs of an impending attack.

Men and women both often experience discomfort in the center of the chest that may feel like squeezing, fullness, pressure or pain. This feeling may go away and then return. Other areas of the upper body can also become painful, such as one or both arms, the neck, back jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath can occur with or without chest pain. The victim may break out in a cold sweat, feel nauseous or become lightheaded.

Women’s most common symptom, just like men, is chest pain. But they are much more likely to also experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the jaw or neck.

Anyone who is getting older knows that aging brings a variety of little hurts that weren’t there when we were younger. Perhaps it’s a touch of arthritis in your hands, or knees that tell you they don’t like climbing stairs anymore. You might get more headaches, and activities that you used to do without a care now result in a sore back. 

"Boomers, especially, are very stoic,” says Dr. Edwin Leap, an emergency physician in South Carolina. “They're used to things hurting. So they put off chest pain for a day or two, and by the time they come to hospital they've completed a heart attack. Or they fall off a ladder, get up and say they're fine. Then it turns out they have an intracranial hemorrhage — a life-threatening situation.”

Usually, these symptoms can be treated at home. But how can you tell if the pain you’re experiencing needs a closer look from a medical professional? As a general rule, pain that comes on suddenly and/or severely should be checked out, according to Dr. Sonia Sehgal, an internist who specializes in geriatric medicine at University of California’s Irvine Medical Center. Symptoms that linger also warrant a trip to a health care specialist, she says.

The following are 10 symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore:

  • Chest pain. A heart attack can come on as a dull pressure or heaviness, according to Dr. Diane Ryan, an internal medicine specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. 
  • Sudden eye pain. It could indicate that you’re getting shingles, a painful viral condition, or that you have a blocked blood vessel, internal bleeding or acute glaucoma. 
  • Severe abdominal pain. Acute appendicitis, a serious infection or diverticulitis may be the cause. “You know your body,” says Leap. “If you’ve had this pain on and off for years, that’s one thing. But if it’s new and it doesn’t let up or it keeps getting worse, I want to see you.”
  • A terrible headache. A serious headache, especially if you also have neck stiffness, weakness or vision change, or after you hit your head, is concerning enough to have it checked out.
  • Prolonged pain from a minor cut or wound. If a small wound turns red or swells, or if it gets worse rather than better, it may be dangerously infected. “Organic material causes infections that spread wildly,” Leap says. “I’ve seen a splinter that got up under a fingernail. A few days later, they’ve got red streaks up their arm and a raging infection.”
  • Pain in your calf, especially after surgery. Calf pain can signal deep vein thrombosis, a dangerous type of blood clot that often occurs in patients recovering from knee or hip surgery. 
  • Pain accompanied by a loss of function. If you hurt your leg but you can still walk around, it may just be a sprained ankle. “But if you can’t move it and you’re having pain,” Leap says, “that should be investigated immediately.” You may have a fracture, nerve injury or loss of blood flow.
  • Nerve pain. Tingling or numbness in your hands or feet can be a sign of nerve damage, particularly if you have diabetes. Lab work can help determine the cause, says Sehgal.
  • Extreme fatigue. Contact your doctor if you feel profound fatigue after easy tasks like washing the dishes or taking out the garbage. It may signal heart disease or problems with thyroid function.
  • Difficulty breathing. If you take a walk every day and suddenly feel like you’re struggling for breath, visit a health care professional to see if it’s related to asthma, emphysema or heart disease.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Women’s Financial Insecurity

Women have financial issues for good reason. Here’s why, what to do about it, and how to make the most of what you have.

The wealth gap between men and women starts early; boys get twice as much allowance as girls, on average, according to recent studies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. Women hold 71% of their assets in cash, versus 60% for men, so women are less likely to invest than men. Women also need more money in retirement since they usually live longer than men and are more likely to need long-term care. 

Women also fare worse than men after a divorce and struggle more financially when they are single. They are more often the caretakers of children or older family members and get paid less than men when they do work. They are less likely than men to make investment decisions when they are married. 

All of these women have one thing in common: they are risk-averse and often afraid to put their money to work (even though the real risk is to avoid investing and watch that cash lose money every year as inflation lowers its value). As a recent study found, lower levels of earnings and workforce attachment could not explain the extent of the wealth differential; a contributing factor seemed to be “a lack of adequate financial literacy.”

So ladies, what can we do about it? Plenty, as it turns out.

Increasing Pay and Financial Literacy

Women in the workforce can ask for raises more often or switch to another employer (where they will likely get increased wages). They can advocate for payment for caregiving within their family, and/or take advantage of the law. For example, they can live with the parent they care for in order to eventually inherit the house (instead of having to sell it) when Mom or Dad runs out of money (check with Medicaid or see an attorney first). They can buy long-term care insurance (which covers a portion of non-medical care) when they are healthier and more likely to qualify.

Women can educate themselves about personal finance. Expert Suze Orman wrote a book entitled Women & Money, or check out finance guru Dave Ramsey for his plan on paying off debt and getting back control of your money. 

Myriad financial bloggers and podcasters in the financial independence (FI) community offer great tips for frugality, debt payoff and saving. Start with the iconic Mr. Money Mustache or try one of dozens of female bloggers in the space. The FI community may be generally much younger than many of us, but tips for great money management (paying off debt, saving and investing) do not change much with age. 

If You Have Money To Invest ($5 Is Enough)

If you don’t know anything about stocks, well, you don’t really have to. Invest in an exchange traded index fund (an index ETF) that follows the S&P. To learn what an ETF is and what stocks make up the S&P, read the free J. Collins Stock Series online, where he uses layman’s terms fit for beginners, or read his book, The Simple Path to Wealth. 

Most 401(k)s have some target date funds that gradually change over the portfolio from a heavier weighting of stocks to a heavier weighting in bonds as the account holder nears retirement. This gives many women peace of mind since they can invest and never think about rebalancing.

If you work in the gig economy and don’t have a savings plan, most brokerages (such as Vanguard, Fidelity, Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade) offer free services, including buying and selling stock, and all of them offer online services. Choose one that has an office in your community and make an appointment to talk to a representative, or call if it’s more convenient. Ask for a woman if it makes you more comfortable. You are the client, and you’re in charge. 

You may be starting with a very small amount of money, and that’s OK. All of the major brokerages offer stock slices, so if the stock you want costs more than what you have (and you can literally start with $5), you get as much of a share as your money will buy. Feel proud of your decision to invest, whether it is $5 or $5,000. 

New York Times bestselling author Jean Chatzky has spent much of her life covering money issues. Her book, Women With Money, answers “questions women should be asking about their money at every age.” You could even bring a group of friends together to play Chatzky's HerMoney Happy Hour game that is a discussion about money for women only.

Older Women Making Financial Decisions

Many women in or near retirement find that it is too late to course correct; there is no time to increase savings. But they don’t have to live every day afraid that their money will run out.  While some very conservative planners suggest a 2% to 3% withdrawal rate, the 4% rule is a time-tested formula for safe withdrawal from a retirement fund. Historically, a person could withdraw 4% of their nest egg each year and allow for about 2% inflation annually, and expect the account to last at least 33 years, even in the worst of times. 

Women shouldn’t fear putting their money in the market, especially when today’s low interest rates mean bonds are very low yielders. Even if you only earn 5% annually (while nothing is guaranteed, stocks generally go up an average of 7% to 10% per year), you are beating inflation and getting a much better return than having your money sit in the bank. 

Women in the Silent Generation may be better off financially than younger cohorts but struggle with finances after the death of a spouse. These women will often opt to leave money for their children, even to their own detriment. They may have a large, expensive house to maintain and risk having health care eat up their remaining nest egg. One female financial adviser noted wryly that her women clients “just won’t spend money on themselves as they age;” she never sees that problem in men.

Another issue women are more likely to encounter is dementia. Both sexes drop in financial literacy after age 60 (take the financial literacy quiz here to see how you’re doing). But women should have someone designated to take over their finances when they are no longer able to call the shots. It’s better to have chosen someone to act with a durable power of attorney (POA) ahead of time than to have to make the decision in an emergency, or after cognition has slowed.

Tax and Estate Planning

For women fortunate enough to need tax and estate planning — and that may well mean you, because taxes eat more of our budget than anything except housing — consider someone who charges a flat fee and acts as a fiduciary. The XY Planning Network one such group that guarantees “no commissions, no sales, no minimums” and has a huge network of planners to pick from. You may want to talk to planner Ellen who specializes in divorced women, women in transition, and widow/widowers, “assisting you through cumbersome paperwork and educating you without the industry jargon. The nuances, rules and types of accounts are explained by how they fit your needs, risks, tax structure and earning capabilities.” Or, call planner Breanna who “decided to build a firm in order to create an inviting environment where women are encouraged to discuss their money without judgment, to learn about their investments in a way they enjoy, and to become more comfortable managing their money with confidence.” Their credentials are clearly listed on the site, and in today’s world, a planner based on the other side of your state can serve you just as easily as one in your hometown. 

Even people who went to school for this stuff have often struggled with debt and doubt. Women who reach out for guidance will find others who are happy to help, or who will point them to someone who can. The first step is both the hardest and the most important. 


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Add a Decade To Your Life With These Five Habits

A study from Harvard uncovered five habits that could help you live 10 years longer and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by half.

It’s possible to extend your life substantially by adopting five simple habits. Even more important, perhaps, is that these habits will give you a better shot at avoiding cancer, heart disease, dementia and more. And who doesn’t want more quality years to watch grandchildren grow into adulthood, actively participate in their community and enjoy life?

How This Man Lived Past 100

Japanese physician Shigeaki Hinohara lived a full and happy life to the age of 105. The longevity expert freely dispensed advice on what he did to stay healthy and strong for more than a century. He recommended continuing to work well past the common retirement age of 65. The good doctor maintained a five-year appointment calendar and saw patients for up to 18 hours a day, volunteering his time as he got older. 

Hinohara avoided elevators and said he took the stairs “two at a time, to get my muscles moving.” He carried his own bags, and gave an average of 150 lectures a year — standing up, “to stay strong.” He ate a modest diet: Coffee, a glass of milk and orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil were enough at breakfast. “Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat,” he said “I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”

Perhaps his greatest secret was to stay busy contributing to his community. “It’s wonderful to live long,” Hinohara said. “Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.”

Advances in science and medicine should give us all a healthier life, and Americans can expect to live an average of about 76 years (that age is dropping due to COVID-19 deaths). But in fact, the U.S. ranks only 43rd out of 195 countries in terms of lifespan. Residents of Monaco hold the No. 1 position, with the Japanese close behind.

Five Healthy Habits

Research scientists gathered 34 years of data on 73,196 women and 28 years of data from 38,366 men to arrive at their conclusions. They found that starting the habits by your fifties led to the most extended lifespan, but following the recommendations at any time had a positive effect. The five healthy habits are:

  1. Don’t use tobacco. Smoking, vaping, chewing and dipping tobacco all had negative health effects.
  2. Drink in moderation. Limit alcohol to one glass of wine for women, and two for men daily.
  3. Exercise daily. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate to hard exercise per day.
  4. Eat well. Heavy on the vegetables, light on red meat and fried food. 
  5. Stay slim. A body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25 was ideal.

“Previous studies have found that following a healthy lifestyle improves overall life expectancy and reduces risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, but few studies have looked at the effects of lifestyle factors on life expectancy free from such diseases,” said first author Yanping Li, senior research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “This study provides strong evidence that following a healthy lifestyle can substantially extend the years a person lives disease-free.”

Compared to those who didn’t engage in any of the healthy habits, women upped their life expectancy from 79 to 93.1 years, while men increased theirs from an average 75.5 to 87.6 years.

Steer Clear of Alzheimer’s

The recommendations for avoiding Alzheimer’s are nearly identical, with the addition of one habit and the elimination of the body mass limit (although eating well and exercising regularly should help keep BMI in check):

1. Don’t smoke.
2. Drink in moderation.
3. Exercise at least 150 minutes each week.
4. Eat a diet that supports brain health (similar to a Mediterranean diet).
5. Engage in late-life cognitive activities.

It’s important to note that it’s never too late to start one or more of the habits. Additionally, it’s okay to skip a day or two of exercise once in a while, just as you can exceed the limit on alcohol from time to time. Use the habits as guidelines, and they’ll help you extend not only the quantity of your life, but also the quality.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Gerontechnology: The Boom in Tech for Older Adults

The massive market of older Americans is fueling an explosion of technology to serve them, and they are embracing the new products.

Gerontechnology, or “age tech” as it is sometimes called, comprises tech that is designed for use by older adults themselves, or by caregivers and other professionals who serve them. The International Society for Gerontechnology defines it as “designing technology and environment for independent living and social participation of older persons in good health, comfort and safety.”

Gerontechnology in Many Fields

Blogger (find her at The Gerontechnologist) and aging expert Keren Etkin has mapped out the gerontechnology landscape into fields and the companies that are developing products in each space. According to Etkin, gerontechnology can be grouped into:

  • Health
  • Wellness
  • Independence
  • Social and Communication
  • Cognitive Care
  • Tech-Enabled Home Care
  • End-of-Life Planning
  • Legacy
  • Retirement 2.0
  • InsureTech
  • Independence
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Caregivers 
  • Home Care Providers
  • Senior Living Communities

Easiest Way To Order Uber or Lyft

Studies show that depression and a loss of social engagement are often the result of an older adult’s decision to quit driving. It not ideal to depend on family and friends to drive you to appointments, bingo and social events. However, some older adults struggle to use a smartphone app to call for a car and driver. 

Enter GoGo Grandparent, a service that relieves the burden of transportation from friends and relatives, and hands back independence to someone who can no longer drive. The older adult calls GoGo Grandparent, then pushes a button to get an Uber or Lyft. When the senior needs to return home, pushing another button requests a ride back. They can also request an operator for help, get groceries or restaurant meals delivered, or speak to someone to schedule future needs. Meanwhile, family members can keep track of your movements. 

Physical and cognitive limitations can make it difficult or impossible to use a phone. What then? GoGo Grandparent has partnered with Google so services can be requested by voice via its Amazon Alexa voice assistant. Just download the Lyft or Uber app and add it to Alexa’s skills. It’s free to enable. GoGo Grandparent currently runs $9.99 a month and 27 cents per minute for operator services. 

Etkin added two new categories for 2020 alone as the market broadens. The U.S. Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults noted six major categories in its 2019 report, which serves to highlight the need for technological innovation in areas from public transportation to cognitive training. 

Older Adults Increasingly Online

You may be surprised to hear that the fastest-growing age group online is adults aged 50 and up, and 65% of that demographic is active on social media. That’s right, the vast majority of older adults are not technically illiterate. They are, rather, looking for products that help them take advantage of the technical revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for such products as social isolation has hit older adults particularly hard.

"Older adults think the benefits of social technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology," says William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University. "And the use of this technology could benefit their mental and physical health over time.”

Add to that the pocket power of older adults. “The longevity economy is older adults, which starts at age 50 for most of us, and makes up a $7 trillion to $9 trillion economy,” says Joseph Coughlin, the director of the MIT AgeLab. “The 50-plus group is responsible for 70% of disposable income in the U.S. and the 60-plus group is responsible for 30% of wealth around the world.” That’s a lot of incentive to develop products aimed at older generations.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

22 Quotes for Embracing and Celebrating Our Old Selves

There is plenty to lament about getting old. Our bodies are not what they used to be. Our health may have failed, we have regrets, the time ahead is short. That’s one way of thinking about it. 

But what if we opened our hearts to a different way of thinking, even for the space of a moment? What if we turned the coin over to examine the other side, the one where our mind, our mature and wonderful mind, triumphs? The following quotations come from a wide variety of people, but they all contain a joie de vivre; they all embrace and celebrate our old selves. Read one every day and take it to heart, live it, embrace it, think of how it applies to you. Tell someone you love them, and love yourself. 

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” –Henry Ford
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.” –Carroll Bryant
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” - George Bernard Shaw
“I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.” - Albert Einstein
“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.” - Frank Lloyd Wright
"Ageing is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength." - Betty Friedan 
“Don’t waste so much time worrying about your skin or your weight. Develop what you do, what you put your hands on in the world.” - Meryl Streep
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” - Sophia Loren
“To keep the heart unwrinkled — to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent — that is to triumph over old age.” – Thomas Bailey Aldrich
“Almost all my middle-aged and elderly acquaintances, including me, feel about 25 — unless we haven’t had our coffee, in which case we feel 107.” – Martha Beck
“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” – David Bowie
“ … (S)he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition, youth and age are equally a burden.” – Cephalus
“Old age … is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.” – Confucius
“You don’t have a future when you refuse to accept the former generation. Simple.” – Petra Hermans
“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
“It’s not the specter of aging that haunts me. Rather, it’s the far greater fear of having aged and having nothing to show for the aging.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough
“The great thing about getting older is that you get a chance to tell the people in your life who matter what they mean to you.” – Mike Love
“Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” – Mark Twain
“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” – Samuel Ullman


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Famous and 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 7 - Bryan Cranston, Actor

You probably know Bryan Cranston for his phenomenally successful portrayal of character Walter White, the terminally ill chemistry teacher who finds a way to provide for his family’s future by making methamphetamine in Breaking Bad. The role earned him four Emmys, and the show itself garnered a pair of Outstanding Drama Series awards twice after Cranston took over production. Cranston also earned praises as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Tim Whatley the dentist in Seinfeld, and a slew of other roles on stage and screen.

Born in the fabled town of Hollywood, CA, Cranston had a radio actress mother and actor father. But life wasn’t sweet; Cranston has called his parents “broken people” who were “incapacitated as far as parenting.” His father left when Cranston was 11, and he was raised in part by his maternal grandparents on their poultry ranch. Nevertheless, he had a strong desire to act and began honing his craft in local and regional theaters, holding such jobs as truck loader, security guard and waiter to make ends meet. He even became a minister in the Universal Life Church, where he could earn $150 per wedding. By the 1980s, acting brought in enough money to support him.

Breaking Bad ran from 2008 to 2013, its success allowing Cranston the freedom to experiment with producing and developing TV products. He starred in a television adaptation of his own acclaimed play, All the Way, which led to eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations and a Television Critics Choice Award nomination. His production company, Moonshot Entertainment, inked a deal with Warner Bros. Television in 2019.

Cranston has been married to his second wife since 1989; they have a daughter. He is a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan. Cranston and his Breaking Bad costar, Aaron Paul, released their signature tequila, Dos Hombres, in 2019.

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 13 - Jamie Dimon, CEO

How do you amass a billion dollars? JPMorgan Chase chief executive officer and chairman Jamie Dimon has done it, earning anywhere from 11 million to to 29.5 million per year to head one of the Big Four American banks while being put on the Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world five times along the way. 

Born in the Big Apple, Dimon’s father and grandfather were stockbrokers. Dimon attended Harvard Business School and worked summers at Goldman Sachs. After graduation, he went to American Express, where his father was an executive vice president. In 1985 at the age of 30, Dimon left to become CEO of Commercial Credit, which he turned into financial services conglomerate Citigroup. He then departed to become CEO of Bank One, which JPMorgan Chase bought in 2004, when Dimon became head of the combined company.

But money can’t buy you health. Dimon was treated for throat cancer in 2014 and underwent emergency heart surgery in March 2020. He has been working from home throughout the COVID pandemic, where he lives with his wife of 37 years. The couple has three daughters.

Image Source: Wikipedia

March 17 - Patrick McDonnell, Cartoonist

Creator of the comic strip Mutts, Patrick McDonnell is also a prolific illustrator, author and playwright. His picture book, Me… Jane, about the childhood years of Jane Goodall won a Caldecott Honor in 2012. McDonnell’s work on Mutts earned him the Harvey Award for Best Comic Strip eight times. He is also the creator of Bad Baby, a monthly comic strip that appeared in Parents Magazine and were collected and published in book form by Ballantine. 

Peanut’s creator Charles M. Schulz was one of McDonnell’s early heroes. He has always been an animal lover, so perhaps Snoopy and Woodstock were part of the attraction. The cartoonist often placed a small dog in the background of his early illustrations. He is a vegan and serves on the board of directors for the Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals and the Charles M. Schulz Museum. 

Mutts was syndicated in over 700 newspapers in more than 20 countries. The Jack Russell Terrier, Earl, that was the series’ inspiration spent 18 years with McDonnell before passing away in 2007. McDonnell and his longtime wife Karen O’Connell live in New Jersey with their dog Amelie and a cat named Willie Lebowsky.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors