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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.