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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Alzheimer’s Drug Debuts to Controversy

Excitement over Biogen’s aducanumab to treat Alzheimer’s has been muted by scientists’ doubt about its effectiveness.

For the first time in 18 years, U.S. health regulators approved a new drug in June to treat Alzheimer’s — in spite of concerns over whether or not the therapy is effective. Biogen’s Aducanumab is the first drug approved to treat a cause of the disease. But many experts were skeptical that clinical trials demonstrated the drug could delay cognitive decline. 

Aducanumab reduces a buildup of protein in the brain called amyloid-β, which has a correlation to Alzheimer’s. Some scientists think that it causes the disease. However, the relationship is still being studied.  

The FDA approved the drug based on two phase III trials that were halted in March 2019 when they were still ongoing. At that time, researchers looked at the data and concluded it did not warrant continuation of the trials. 

In an unusual move, Biogen revived the drug application months later after taking a deep dive into the data and determining that in one of the trials, those patients who got the highest dose of the drug had a statistically significant reduction in cognitive decline. Aducanumab showed no benefit at lower doses in that trial, and no benefit at any dose in the other trial. The trials, with their associated data, remain unpublished and incomplete.

Huge Need

Worldwide, 35 million people have Alzheimer’s, an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disease. That number is expected to rise as the population ages. Aducanumab has only been tested on people with the early stage of the disease.

The aducanumab antibody is the latest in a line of drugs aimed at amyloid plaques; every other contender has failed to demonstrate improved cognition. Many scientists are skeptical that these plaques are even the right place to look for a treatment, much less if researchers are targeting the correct patients at the correct doses.

“The problem with most of the amyloid trials is that they didn’t disprove anything,” says Bart De Strooper, director of the UK Dementia Research Institute in London. “They just proved that a drug, in the way it was applied, didn’t work.” After evaluating the data, an independent panel of experts argued that Biogen’s interpretation was incorrect. Scott Emerson, a biostatistician at the University of Washington in Seattle and panel member, said the drug company’s approach was like “firing a shotgun at a barn and then painting a target around the bullet holes.”

The director of the University of Southern California’s Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute in San Diego, Paul Aisen, also consults for Biogen. He says the drug is “an effective therapy.” But even Aisen admits that “this was a problematic data set. It was a very fraught situation.”

And then there are the side effects. In both trials, almost 40% of patients developed brain swelling. While most had no symptoms due to the swelling, it has the effect of necessitating regular brain scans in patients taking the drug, creating a load for patients, treating neurologists, and health-care systems.

FDA Grants Accelerated Approval

While 10 of 11 panelists at the meeting in Novermber concluded that the data did not demonstrate effectiveness of the drug (one panelist was uncertain), the FDA seemingly discarded that input when it approved the drug in June. Three panelists have since resigned their positions. In his resignation letter, Dr Aaron Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, wrote that the FDA’s decision was “probably the worst drug approval decision in recent history.” He added, “This will undermine the care of these patients, public trust in the FDA, the pursuit of useful therapeutic innovation, and the affordability of the health care system.”

The FDA changed its review to the accelerated approval program, usually reserved for cancer treatments. This means that Biogen now has nine years to complete a “post-marketing” trial to confirm the drug’s usefulness. Scientist worry this sets a poor precedent. “This opens the door to drug companies seeking to use the accelerated approval program as a way of getting drugs on the market based on extremely low-quality evidence or boost-hoc data fishing,” says Kesselheim. 

However, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research disagrees. “We decided that the accelerated approval pathway fits well here,” says Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni. It “allows for there being some residual uncertainty on the drug’s clinical benefits while making the drug available to patients rather than having to wait.”

Researchers are also wary that the emphasis will now be on similar, anti-amyloid drugs at the expense of other targets, such as those seeking to clear another toxic protein called tau. “This is going to set the research community back 10-20 years, says George Perry, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Banking On Biogen

Meanwhile, Biogen’s stock price leapt up to close 38.3% higher on the day of the announcement, its highest level in six years. The company said that it would sell the new drug, marketed as Aduhelm, for $56,000 a year. 

Medicare is expected to cover 85-90% of those eligible for treatment: people who are in early-stage Alzheimer’s and test positive for a component of amyloid brain plaques. Although the FDA approval doesn’t limit use to a specific group, it’s unlikely that either Medicare nor any payer would make it available for a broader population. 

With approximately 1.5 million Americans eligible for treatment, which is administered via a monthly infusion, Wall Street analysts are projecting peak annual sales in a range from $10 billion to $50 billion. 

Japanese drug company Eisai has been observing developments closely. It has rights to 55% of profits on aducanumab in the U.S. and 80% in Japan and most of Asia. Japan has a huge population of older adults, but Credit Suisse pharma analyst Fumiyoshi Sakai predicted its national health care system would limit annual sales there to about $914 million. Shares of Eisai were quickly bid up to their daily limit after the announcement. 

Approval of aducanumab sent shares of other companies developing Alzheimer’s treatments soaring. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the patient-advocacy group Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, thinks such signs are hopeful. “History has shown us that approvals of the first drug in a new category invigorate the field, increase investments in new treatments and encourage greater innovation,” she says. 

Only time will tell who is right.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

What is a Daily Money Manager? Who Needs One?

DMMs provide vital, daily financial services for many, including older adults who no longer can, or want to, manage their money.

“Phil” had always handled his own finances, but at 87, the details were overwhelming. He could no longer be sure that everything was getting paid on time, and when an illness left him with medical bills, he knew he needed help. Phil asked a good friend to assist him, but the friend didn’t feel comfortable getting involved in financial matters. Phil’s daughter lived in another city and he knew she was too busy with her three kids to help him out. Besides, a lot of the hospital bills were coming in the mail and he couldn’t keep track of them all.

Phil’s scenario is not at all uncommon. Perhaps a spouse who handled the money dies, and the remaining spouse is overwhelmed by the new responsibility. Maybe it’s simply a case of cognitive decline; someone who used to manage her own stock portfolio can no longer keep track of her savings and checking accounts. Perhaps an adult child is stealing from a parent and a professional needs to be brought in to oversee the money. Or an adult child is POA for a parent but he is so busy he can’t keep track of bills coming to his parent’s home. In all these cases, hiring a daily money manager (DMM) can solve the problem.

What a DMM Does

Basically, a DMM takes care of household finances for clients who may be wealthy individuals, busy professionals, people with disabilities or older adults. More and more of these clients are aging adults as seniors and the professionals who serve them become aware of the valuable service a DMM performs. “We manage a broad range of services for clients, such as bill pay, bookkeeping, account reconciliation, and we work with health insurance claim forms — everything that comes across your monthly mail that relates to your personal finances," says Alison Salisbury, founder of Fiscally Fit, a daily money-management service company in Mountain View, CA.

 A DMM will pay all of a client’s bills, disputes incorrect charges, balances the checkbook, prepares and makes bank deposits, obtains and organizes tax documents, and reviews and pays medical bills. The client and DMM can meet at the client’s home, over the phone, on Zoom or however the client prefers to keep in touch, which may be weekly, biweekly, or monthly. 

A DMM may also provide additional services, such as:

  • Notary services.
  • Accepting responsibility to act as power-of-attorney or representative payee for Medicare.
  • Fiduciary services such as trustee, executor, conservator, guardian, or health care proxy.
  • Preparation of payroll checks for home employees including calculation of Federal and state withholding and FICA taxes.
  • Financial counseling.
  • Preparing budgets of spending plans.
  • Preparing plans to reduce debt.

Who Are DMMs?

Most DMMs have a bachelor’s degree and three or more years of experience. While many DMMs don’t have credentials, they do require credibility. For instance, they may have worked in a financial or business field, or have a background in social service agencies. DMMs may work under the moniker of “bill pay services.”

Certified daily money managers (CDMMs) are financial professionals who have earned the certification from the American Association of Daily Money Managers, a trade organization that supports ethics while providing information and education to members and the public. CDMMs have met eligibility requirements and passed an exhaustive exam on topics ranging from Social Security to Medicaid, insurance, banking practices and security issues to ensure high standards and quality service. Additionally, CDMMs must pass a background check and have at least 1,500 hours of experience under their belt to qualify for the designation.

How to Find a DMM

You can seek referrals from accountants, estate lawyers, or agencies that help older consumers. Do check with your state attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints about the person have been filed before hiring.

Professionals who advocate for older adults and people with special needs are often a great resource for DMMs. They often go into the home and can report back to the family when appropriate, such as when the person they are helping is not taking prescribed medication, is in deteriorating condition, or can’t maintain the home. They can then provide the services of a social worker and/or mental health-care advocate to help out, and the service can oversee aides. They may be found by searching terms such as:
  • Elder advocate
  • Mental health advocate
  • Financial advocate
  • Daily money management
  • Life care management services
  • Life enhancement
  • Lifecare for seniors
  • Geriatric care manager

Another great way to locate a DMM is through the trade organization, listed above, whose more than 700 members must abide by a code of ethics. 

Meet with several DMMs to find one who is the right fit for you. Do they have a minimum fee? How are they paid? How long have they been in the job? Will they come to your home? How will they share information about bills they are paying and other tasks? Do they have similar clients from whom you can get a referral? 

What Should You Expect to Pay?

How much you will be charged depends a lot on where you live, but it’s usually in the range of $75 to $150 per hour. Generally, it would cost much more to have a CPA take over the job. 

A DMM can save you money in the long run. Your DMM may ask if you’re using all of those cable subscriptions. He or she can negotiate a better price on certain services, and a DMM notices if you’ve been billed twice or for something Medicare should cover. There are other benefits, as well.

"I am the eyes and ears," says DMM Barbara Boustead. She can see if "Mom hasn't been taking medication or she needs someone to come in and help out during the day."

Hiring a daily money manager can lift a load of worry off the shoulders of an older adult who cannot manage paying bills, and it can be a lifesaver for adult children tasked with managing the finances of their parents. Having someone else manage financial matters can give them peace of mind and allow them to put their energy on tasks that are more pleasurable and central to their interests. For many, this would include maintaining close relationships between children and aging parents. You can’t put a price on that.


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, July 22, 2021

AirBnB and VRBO: How Can You Find a Great One?

Personal vacation rentals are all the rage. Here’s how to find the right one to stay at … and how to know if you should become a landlord yourself.

During the pandemic, hotels went empty while private rentals filled up. People wanted to get away from more populated areas, or they trusted the enhanced cleaning protocols that many local rentals offered. What they discovered is what many already knew: personal rentals can be a fantastic way to vacation, and a savings on hotel prices. But not every rental is up to snuff nor the perfect match for your needs. How do you find a rental you’ll love?

Should You Run a Vacation Rental?

A little extra income never hurt anyone, and having your own vacation rental can be a good way to get some. Is it right for you? 

First, check with your local community government to see if it’s legal in your area. Most allow stays of less than thirty days, but some cities are cracking down on the practice. Second, consider whether you have a room and bath with a separate entrance. While single rooms in a house can be rented, it’s usually best for long-term tenants who you know. Do you have a camper or RV with an inside toilet? Parked outside, these travel vehicles are becoming popular as low-cost housing for vacationers of all ages. Will you mind responding to inquiries? Will you clean the place yourself or hire it done? Where will sheets and towels be laundered? 

Check this blog about The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act to see if you have any compliance issues. Bring up any questions you have with the people running your listing site, such as VRBO. They handle listings across the country and can advise you on current practices. You can also reach out to your local community of hosts for suggestions based on their experience.

Surprisingly, you don’t have to be particularly social to host. Most communications can be handled with text, and basic questions are answered for tenants before they book. In fact, most hosts never see their tenants during their stay. You can also collect a damage deposit that is refunded to guests after a damage-free stay. And sites like AirBnB have the kinks worked out. See their guide on how to start hosting for tips and tricks to getting started.

People are renting out everything from a room in their home, to a teepee or yurt, or even a camper parked in their driveway. Sometimes it’s an apartment they own, a casita or even an entire house. If you’ve only ever stayed at a hotel, you’re in for a treat. The vast majority of these places provide lovely, unique stays. However, it’s a good idea to run down the list of how to find a great place to make sure you’re matched with the cottage, or camper, of your dreams.

AirBnB, VRBO and are the big three private listing companies. Many properties are listed on all three, or at least the first two. So how do you go about searching for a place and ensuring it’s not a dud? 

  1. Map out the things you want to see on your trip, and find an area nearby. If you’re going to spend a lot of time in the French Quarter of New Orleans, for example, it makes sense that you’ll want to stay nearby. Being able to go out for dinner and drinks and then walk - or take a short Uber ride - home is worth paying more for. You don’t want to spend an hour or two every day traveling where you really want to be. If you want to experience Times Square, it makes sense to avoid the financial district. Even in a small town, the difference between walking to restaurants and having to drive can impact how much you enjoy your vacation.
  2. Enter the dates you want to stay. This rules out all the properties that are already booked. 
  3. Add filters for your visit. Do you need a washer and dryer? Will a pet be traveling with you? Are two bathrooms a priority? Do you want a full kitchen? Is Wi-Fi a must? Include only what you absolutely need to have on the first look so you don’t eliminate the place that lacks a washer/dryer but has a killer view off a balcony, for example. Will you be comfortable staying in someone’s spare room to save money? Do you want a whole house for a family vacation, or two master bedrooms with their own bath? Is there parking available on the property or will you have to hunt for a spot on the street? Is smoking allowed?
  4. Cast a critical eye on the photos. Don’t even consider a place lacking photos of the bathroom, or one that has five photos of the flat and 20 of nearby tourist attractions. Another red flag: multiple close-ups of individual furniture or a bouquet that are masking room size or overall attractiveness. Does the place look cluttered or comfortable? Is the furniture obviously worn
  5. Read the reviews. They should be overwhelmingly positive. Are there compliments about the owner’s helpfulness? Is the kitchen fully stocked? Is the place sparkling clean? Can you get in with a code? Is everything in working order? Is the mattress comfy? Was it quiet? Is it located next to a junkyard or jazz club? Of course, there’s always the guest who is impossible to satisfy. How does the owner handle negative reviews? If there are no reviews or if the reviews are all old, give it a pass. The only exception is for a new listing, which may be offered at a reduced cost until the owner has enough reviews to bring it up to market price. 
  6. Review the total cost. You may pay more than the average price per night if you’re renting in high season. If there is a local festival going on, expect rates to be considerably higher. Taxes, a service fee and a cleaning fee will also add to the final price. Unlike a hotel, most private rentals are only cleaned before and after your stay, so a longer stay at the same place will bring the daily price down. Be aware that some listers lower the price per day and then charge an exorbitant cleaning fee; pay attention to the total price.
  7. Check other rental sites for the same property. The same property could be cheaper on one site than another. If the owners have their own website, it’s almost certainly a bargain there because there is no fee to pay a hosting site. Some properties may actually be listed by property management outfits. Check their site as well to find the best deal. 
  8. Review the policies. Make sure that you are aware of check-in and check-out times. Do you need the code for a lock box? Are pets allowed on the furniture? Do you need to bag garbage at the end of your stay? Are children allowed? Is there an elevator to a third-floor apartment? While most private rentals provide sheets and towels, some (especially if you’re traveling internationally) do not. Will there be a crib for your grandchild?
  9. Ask questions. You have the option to ask a potential host anything at all about the property. Keep it short and simple. Most hosts also make available a list of nearby attractions. Remember that the host is not responsible for planning your vacation. He or she will rate you at the end of the stay, as well as you ranking the property. You want to be a considerate guest.

Do your homework before you commit, and pretty soon you’ll be raving about that cool hillside patio with the fire pit and hot tub outside of Taos, or the charming 20’s cottage with the vintage tub in Boston. Enjoy your travels!

Monday, July 19, 2021

Are Shipped Meal Services Worth the Cost?


You get a box in the mail and half an hour later, dinner is ready. No planning, no shopping, and in some cases, no prep. But is it as good as it sounds?

Raise your hand if you’re tired of trying to come up with new recipes for dinner. The grind to find a new recipe, shop, cook and then figure out what to do with leftover cabbage and an entire bottle of Korean chili flakes can be mentally exhausting. In our busy lives, it’s often a lot easier to make another grilled cheese sandwich with a pickle on the side. But there are other options available to you.

Inexpensive Meal Options

Many older adults are on a fixed income that doesn’t allow for fancy meal delivery. Often, there are community-based alternatives that provide a hot meal at a small charge, or even for free. Meals on Wheels has a network that covers nearly every community across America. Check to see if your local senior center provides lunches. Many offer the socialization of a sit-down meal for about $4.50. Meals on Wheels also provides delivery of nutritious meals with a friendly visit and safety check. Meals are generally offered on a sliding scale, with no one turned away for an inability to pay. There may be a wait to get on the list for meals due to lack of funding for the program. 

Another option can be local churches, which may offer a meal once a week or once a month. Finally, Feeding America provides a network of food banks and information about the need-based, government Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Food banks provide free food, but check with your local outlet to see when it is open, as they often have specific days and times, especially if they offer fresh food. SNAP participants get a Benefits Transfer card that is used like a debit card at authorized retail food stores.

Boxed meals shipped straight to your door solve a lot of problems at once. A chef has planned a delicious, healthy dinner. Just enough ingredients to make the meal arrive fresh — and no more.  The prep takes 15 or 20 minutes at most. Follow simple, step-by-step instructions, and before you know it the smell of a savory dinner begins to rise from your stove. (Some companies specialize in microwaveable meals, or pre-prepped ingredients that only need to be combined and cooked.) You put some music on, leave the meal to simmer for a few minutes, and realize a smile is replacing the usual stressed dinnertime demeanor.

Is the Price Right?

However, this luxury doesn’t come cheap. The least expensive options run $5 per serving, with most in the $10 to $12 range. Is it worth the cost? The answer is elusive: it depends. A busy professional or senior who hates to shop may find them the perfect antidote to that grilled cheese. If the money is in the budget, it can be fun to choose from a wide variety of selections (usually around 25) that offer both familiar flavors and some that come from exotic parts of the world. They may be the right solution for older adults who have begun to default to crackers and peanut butter and just need a simpler way to put a healthy meal together. 

How often you have a box delivered is usually up to you. You may want a meal for four once a week, or dinners for two delivered on Tuesday and Thursday. Most companies give you the option to skip whenever you like, such as when you’ll be away from home but many companies do require e a minimum standing order.

Boxed meal delivery services offer a wide variety of specializations. Some offer only organic ingredients, others accommodate specific diets like paleo, gluten free, low carb, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, etc. Having such options can make sticking to a special diet, or just eating healthier, that much easier. 

If you do decide to give boxed meals a try, check for coupons online. Many of them offer a deal right on the website when you start the service. Below, we’ve listed a variety of companies (though certainly not all!) that offer boxed meals.

  • Blue Apron. About $10 per meal. Quality ingredients with meals sometimes created by celebrity guest chefs.
  • Dinnerly. About $5 per serving. The least expensive option.
  • Factor 75.  About $15 per serving. All meals arrive microwave-ready and are gluten free, soy free, non-GMO, and include zero antibiotics, hormones, or refined sugars.
  • Freshly. Starts at $50 per week. No refined sugar, gluten, or artificial ingredients.
  • Gobble. About $12 per meal. Each dinner can be cooked in a single pan, and is ready in 15 minutes. Gluten free, dairy free, low carb and vegetarian options.
  • Green Chef. About $7 per meal. USDA organic meals that can be tailored to any dietary need you have.
  • Hello Fresh. About $7 per meal. A great price for fresh, pre-measured ingredients has made it the No. 1 service.
  • Home Chef. About $7 per meal. An affordable option with meals that are ready in half an hour.
  • Marley Spoon. Starts at $62.93 per week. Martha Stewart is affiliated with this meal service.
  • Purple Carrot. About $12 per meal. Exclusively vegan, this could be a great way to add more plants to anyone’s diet. 
  • Real Eats. About $13 per serving. Responsibly sourced, junk-free, no-waste meals that are ready to eat in 6 minutes.
  • Sun Basket. Starts at $72 per week. All meals are USDA organic, with vegan, paleo, lean and clean, gluten free, and other options. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Road Less Traveled

National parks are crammed full as Americans emerge from the pandemic raring to travel. Avoid the crowds in lesser-known places that offer scenic beauty and quiet.

Spending time sitting in your car with the motor idling as you wait in a long, long line isn’t anyone’s idea of enjoying the great outdoors. Yet more and more Americans are doing just that as a massive wave of post-COVID vacationers are bearing down on popular parks that can’t handle the overload. 

On a recent Thursday, Libby Preslock pulled up at Arches National Park in southern Utah only to read signs that said it was full and to try again in five hours. “Anywhere you go, there’s going to be a line,” she said after traveling down to nearby Canyonlands park, where the wait to get in was only half an hour. Arches had 194,000 visitors in April, up 15% from 2019. Other popular national parks are seeing similar or greater increases. 

This Land is Your Land

Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-managed lands offer camping experiences ranging from developed RV campgrounds to throwing a bivy sack down in the backcountry. Some campgrounds include facilities like restrooms and running water, others may have nothing but a fire ring. Most campgrounds charge a fee, but dispersed camping on these public lands is free. Be a good citizen by checking out rules and regulations before you go. 

Dispersed camping is legal camping in undeveloped campsites, and it’s allowed, with certain limits, in our National Forests. You won’t find any amenities except clean air and solitude, but it won’t cost a thing. Learn more about free camping in National Forests

What’s an outdoorsy person to do?

Hit the Road, Jack. In the U.S., we are blessed with a lot of gorgeous, undeveloped land. When the parks fill up, it’s time to turn our attention to more out-of-the-way places for recreation. Try AllTrails, a site (and handy phone app) where hikers rate public trails and write about the conditions of the road to get there, whether or not you can camp at the trailhead, if the trail is well-marked, and other handy information. 

Knowing how crowded Moab, Utah has become, a friend and I used AllTrails recently to plan a trip to a remote area outside of Delta, Utah. We navigated a four-wheel-drive road and camped at the trailhead for Notch Peak. The next morning, we headed out past ancient bristlecone pine and ponderosas on a trip to the peak. 

Nearing the summit, we were astonished to have a pair of F-35 stealth jets shoot by in extremely close proximity, apparently on a training run out of nearby Wendover Air Force Base. After that awe-inspiring experience, we continued up to admire a 365-degree view of the ancient lake bed below. The northwest face of the mountain holds the record for the second-highest vertical drop in the U.S. after Yosemite’s El Capitan. We hiked down to pass another night at the trailhead, which we had all to ourselves once again with a starry sky spread out above us.

You may think our adventure was a bit too strenuous for your brand of outdoor fun — but we discovered other activities that will bring us back in fall. Delta is home to the Topaz Museum, and you can dig for the gem at several local spots. Or perhaps you’d prefer to hunt for your own trilobite fossil, also offered nearby. You can check out the Great Stone Face geologic formation,  head to Fort Deseret State Park, poke around in The Bug House rock shop, or play a round at the Sunset View golf course. Rainy day? Duck into the Great Basin Museum for historical context. RV parking is available nearby at Antelope Valley RV Park.

It’s a lot of fun to pull up a map of an area you’d like to visit, then randomly select a spot and search the internet for trails and things to do in the area. Try searching “Best things to do in (name of town)” and see what comes up. TripAdvisor can be a good source of local activities. 

No matter where you live, or where you want to go, now is a good time to get a little bit out of your comfort zone and blaze your own trail. After all, it’s an American tradition. Summon your pioneer spirit and get off the beaten path for a unique experience.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

July 3 - Montel Williams, talk show host

Host of the long-running The Montel Williams Show, Williams currently hosts Military Makeover: Operation Career on Lifetime. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and is active with the MS Foundation, a nonprofit he founded. 

Williams served in the United States Marine Corps as well as the United States Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a major in engineering and a minor in international security affairs. He went on to serve 17 years in active duty, followed by five years in the reserves. 

The Montel Williams Show ran from 1991 to 2008. Williams received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show host in 1996, and the show was nominated for Outstanding Talk Show twice. Self-declared psychic Sylvia Browne was a repeat guest throughout its run, leading to controversy related to a pair of kidnapping victims. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

July 9 - Tom Hanks, actor

You surely already know much about the film career of Hanks, so we’ve put together a few facts that you might not know about this cherished actor.

Hanks was generally disliked by students and teachers in high school, where he spent years as a “Bible-toting evangelical,” according to one journalist. Hanks himself says,” I was a geek, a spaz. I was horribly, painfully, terribly shy. At the same time, I was the guy who’d yell out funny captions during filmstrips. But I didn’t get into trouble. I was always a real good kid and pretty responsible.”

In his college years, Hanks says, "I spent a lot of time going to plays. I wouldn't take dates with me. I'd just drive to a theater, buy myself a ticket, sit in the seat and read the program, and then get into the play completely. I spent a lot of time like that, seeing Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Ibsen, and all that.”

As a little boy, Hanks wanted to be …. An astronaut! He’s a member of the National Space Society and produced the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon. Hanks is also an honorary member of the United States Army Rangers Hall of Fame for his portrayal of a captain in Saving Private Ryan, and Hanks served as spokesman for the WWII Memorial Campaign.

He uses manual typewriters on a near-daily basis, and created the Hanx Writer app to allow users to mimic the experience.


Image Source: Wikipedia

July 25 - Frances Arnold, chemist

Arnold became the first American woman (and fifth woman in the prize’s 117-year history) to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2018 for her work in directed evolution. She currently serves on President Joe Biden’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 

Arnold was never a conformist. She left home in high school, hitchhiking to Washington, D.C. to protest the war in Vietnam. Her independence led to a lot of missed days at school and subsequent low grades, although she aced standardized tests and was determined to attend the alma mater of her nuclear physicist father: Princeton. 

She achieved her goal, working on a degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering and considered a career as a diplomat after taking Russian, Italian and economics. Instead, she took a gap year to work in an Italian factory that manufactured parts for nuclear reactors and came back to study energy and environmental studies. After graduation in 1979, she went to South Korea, Brazil and then Colorado to work in engineering, including designing solar energy facilities for areas out in the boondocks. 

Arnold earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley. She is the co-inventor of no less than 40 U.S. patents and cofounded both Gevo, a company that makes fuels and chemicals from renewable resources, and Provivi, which researches alternatives to pesticides for crop protection. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

July 26 - Dorothy Hamill, ice skater

Raise your hand if you got a bob after seeing Dorothy Hamill win the 1976 Olympic figure skating championship! “America’s sweetheart” started skating at age eight and gained national prominence when she won the novice ladies at the U.S. Championships when she was just 12 years old. A year later, she placed second at the junior level. Hamill wore the crown of U.S. champion in 1974, 1975 and 1976, when she was also World Champion in ladies’ singles. 

At the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, Hamill dominated her event. She came in second in figures, then won both the short and long programs to take the gold medal. This would be the last time a single skater would have an Olympic win without a triple jump. She did develop a new move, the “Hamill camel,” a camel spin that evolves into a sit spin. 

For the next seven years, Hamill headlined Ice Capades shows. In 1993, the Associated Press ran a national study to find the most popular athlete in America. It wasn’t Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Magic Johnson or even Wayne Gretzky. You guessed it: Hamill, along with fellow Olympian and gymnast Mary Lou Retton, topped the list. 

Learn more about Hamill in her autobiographies On and Off the Ice and Skating Life: My Story.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Monday, July 12, 2021

Six Tips for Seniors Dealing With Financial Troubles


For seniors, retirement can come with personal finance challenges. Some struggle to adjust from working full-time and earning a hefty salary to living on a fixed income. Others may not have had the opportunity to save as much for retirement as they would have liked, and once they leave their jobs, they have trouble paying their bills. And while these issues are common, many seniors feel embarrassed about asking their loved ones for help.

Thankfully, seniors who are dealing with financial troubles have options and places to turn to for guidance. Whether you’re interested in seeking assistance from a qualified financial professional or you’d like to revise your budget and boost your income with part-time work, these tips will help you feel confident about managing your finances.

1) Work with a Financial Consultant

If you feel truly overwhelmed when you think about personal finance, you don’t need to try navigating through financial decisions on your own. Instead, consider seeking out the services of a financial consultant who can help you with everything from paying down your debts to creating a realistic budget.

While you can work with a financial consultant that is employed by a firm, choosing a freelance consultant can lead to a more personalized experience. In order to choose a consultant who will understand your lifestyle and financial needs, you’ll want to check out his or her qualifications, background, reviews, prices, and the services the consultant offers. If possible, try to find a consultant that specializes in working with seniors — he or she will have an in-depth understanding of your situation!

2) Go Over Your Budget

Whether you have decided to hire a consultant or you would prefer to tackle your personal finance choices on your own, you’ll want to go over your budget before you make any other changes. If you don’t have a budget, you can create one by writing down how much income you get from specific sources each month, and then note your fixed and variable expenses on a spreadsheet or down on paper.

Next, analyze your spending on variable expenses, like groceries, utilities, and entertainment. Could you go to a cheaper grocery store and use coupons to save on food? Would you be able to switch to a new Internet or phone provider that offers cheaper rates? The Motley Fool also recommends replacing expensive hobbies with free or low-cost activities, like visiting museums that offer free admission, visiting the library, or going to free local concerts.

3) Downsize Your Home

Many seniors find that retirement is the perfect time to downsize. Perhaps you love your family home but maintaining a large property has become difficult. High bills for necessary home maintenance projects can eat into your budget, and you might have difficulty going up the stairs or navigating rooms with slippery flooring.

Downsizing and moving into a smaller home will help you save substantially every month. If you’ve decided that you’re ready to downsize, Farm Bureau Financial Services recommends decluttering every room and investing in some low-cost upgrades, like fresh paint and new bedding, to stage your home for potential buyers. Before you begin house-hunting, figure out how much space you’ll need and which features you want in your new home. For instance, if you love gardening or have pets that need room to play, you may want to move into a small home with a backyard. If you rarely have visitors and love to travel, consider buying a condo or apartment instead.

4) Secure Part-Time Work

Perhaps you have gone over your budget carefully and realized that you couldn’t reasonably cut any of your expenses without sacrificing your quality of life. Or maybe you do spend a lot of money on property taxes at your current residence, but you have no desire to downsize and move. If these scenarios sound relatable to you, you may want to consider working part-time. A part-time job will increase your income and grant you more flexibility. Working just ten to fifteen hours a week can make it much easier to cover all of your expenses!

5) Find Assistance

What if you’ve already done everything you can to cut expenses and bring in some extra money, but you’re still coming up short at the end of every month? It may be time to look for assistance. For some seniors, moving in with a loved one could be an option — this will allow you to drastically reduce your spending on housing costs and utilities. In addition, you can apply for assistance programs that provide financial support for low-income seniors.

Depending on your income and assets, you may qualify for Medicaid, which can help lower your healthcare spending. You might be eligible for food stipends or free meal deliveries. There are also public housing programs and home repair grants that are open to seniors. Get in touch with representatives of senior assistance programs to see if you might be a candidate and find out what paperwork you would need to submit to be approved.

6) Safeguard Against Fraud

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t become a victim of identity theft or fraud. People with bad intentions often target seniors in financial scams, and you can lose a chunk of your nest egg if someone gets access to your savings accounts. Talk to a trusted loved one or your financial consultant about signing up for identity theft protection services, and do not make any major purchases or big investments without talking to your consultant first. Taking a few simple precautions can give you peace of mind.

Many seniors worry about their finances in their golden years. The cost of living in retirement can be higher than anticipated and finding a way to live comfortably while spending less can take some time. With these tips, you can cut down on your spending, protect your assets, and even find a part-time job that grants you a little more wiggle room in your budget!

Do you need guidance when it comes to handling your finances in retirement? Find a trusted financial professional with a specialist focus on older adults through the Society of Certified Senior Advisor’s CSA Locator


About the Author
Jim Vogel and his wife, Caroline, built Elder Action after becoming caregivers for their aging parents.