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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

More Seniors Try Marijuana

As cannabis becomes more accepted in the medical community, a rising number of older adults are trying it, especially for pain. 

Ileane Kent, 80, has spent years vaping nightly. A breast cancer survivor, she got a medical marijuana card in June 2020 so she wouldn’t have to risk going to her supplier’s house. Barbara Blaser, 75, dealt with the pain and anxiety produced by a complicated surgery with five milligrams of edible marijuana, which came in the guise of a chocolate-covered blueberry, every morning and evening. Harry B. Lebowitz, 69, enjoys smoking a joint in his backyard every night while his partner drinks her vodka and soda. 

Cannabis Use Among Seniors Rising

A recent analysis culled from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health concluded that the use of marijuana among those over 65 rose 75% from 2015 to 2018, from 2.4% to 4.2%. It jumped again in 2019 to include 5% of seniors. The lead author expects the trend, which is particularly strong among women and the affluent, to continue to increase sharply. 

“It’s rare to see that much change in a three-year period,” said William Jesdale, an epidemiologist at the University of Massachusetts. 

Leaf411 Provides 24/7 Advice and Information  

Seniors who want to talk to a nurse about the safe use of legal cannabis have a place to go, thanks to Leaf411. Their cannabis-trained nurses offer professional advice, including how to use marijuana products to control chronic pain. The site also offers a library to answer frequently asked questions and provide additional information. A member directory provides a guide to “vetted cannabis-related businesses, clinicians, support groups and other online resources.”

Difference Between THC and CBD

Two active compounds, THC and CBD, are most commonly found in marijuana products. 
THC is the component that gets you high, or intoxicated. However, THC has been shown to produce medical benefits, even at very low doses and sometimes when combined with CBD. CBD is a molecule that is very similar to THC, and it acts in a similar fashion to produce health benefits. It is not intoxicating like THC, however, and it has grown immensely in popularity in recent years.

Visit this site for more information on THC, CBD and minor cannabinoids contained in the cannabis plant.

Although most marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level, researchers theorize that the increasing number of states legalizing pot combined with the trend away from prescribing opioids for pain has boosted the number of seniors willing to give cannabis a try. 

“It’s easier to get and it’s also less stigmatized,” Dr. Jesdale says. 

The $17.5 billion legal cannabis industry has taken note. Dispensary discounts for older adults appear on “Silver Sundays” and “Senior Appreciation Days”. Some savvy retailers provide free delivery for their older customers. Other retailers have sent cannabis advocates to talk to residents in assisted living facilities or picked up seniors at a retirement development to bring them to the dispensary, complete with a catered lunch, product information, and a special discount. 

Does Pot Work?

The efficacy of products containing marijuana is still debatable. The effect of pot was “modest” to alleviate nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, certain sleep disorders and chronic pain, according to a 2017 report from the National Academy of Science. And the American Bar Association offers cautionary results culled from a plethora of data

Furthermore, older adults adding pot to other medications and/or alcohol may be at increased risk of negative drug interactions and falls. Cannabis is known to increase heart rate and possibly blood pressure, but a recent review by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology failed to find direct evidence linking cannabis consumption to coronary events.

Of more concern is seniors combining cannabis with anti-seizure medications and/or blood thinners, since there is little room for error, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you use cannabis and are planning to have surgery. Anesthesia drugs and those used to manage pain post-operatively may require adjusting.

Like many healthcare professionals, researcher Dr.Benjamin H. Han advocates a “start low, go slow” regimen, and he warns older patients who smoked pot in their youth about higher THC concentrations in modern products. Typically, seniors seek marijuana to treat four conditions: pain, insomnia, neuropathy, and anxiety. There is also research supporting the use of cannabis to improve cognitive function.

Many Ways to Take Cannabis

There are four main routes to take cannabis: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical. All are a little different, and you may have to try more than one to find what works for you.

  • Inhalation delivers active compounds to your lungs, and compounds are delivered to your brain in about 15 minutes. There are two ways to inhale: smoking and vaping. Smoking involves burning cannabis flower and inhaling the smoke. Vaping involves the use of a device to heat the cannabis flower or concentrate to just below the point of combustion, releasing the active compounds into a vapor, which is inhaled.
  • Oral ingestion takes place through edibles or tinctures. Edibles include cannabis-infused drinks, baked goods, and gummies, which are absorbed through the digestive tract. It may take anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours to feel the effect. Tinctures are created by steeping cannabis in alcohol. The resulting liquid is taken up with an eye dropper and placed under the tongue, where some is absorbed by the many blood vessels located there and the rest travels to the stomach. The benefit is an immediate effect from the cannabis absorbed into the blood, and a delayed effect from the cannabis that travels to your digestive tract. 
  • Topical products deliver cannabinoids through the skin via pads or cream to deliver localized relief, usually for muscle soreness or joint pain. No matter what product you use, you won’t get any psychoactive effects from topical application. It may take an hour or two for effects to kick in.

How Much THC

Some states, such as Colorado, mandate that edible marijuana is labeled with the amount of THC that it contains. Users know how much THC is in every cookie, candy or treat. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional how much to use, and make sure they know what other drugs you’re taking. Start with a very low dose and remember some methods of ingestion are slow to take effect.

“Older adults generally need less, because their metabolism has slowed,” says Eloise Theisen, president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and a geriatric nurse-practitioner. “They can have a delayed onset, so it’s easier to over-consume, especially with products that taste good.”

Another concern is the accidental consumption of edibles by children. If grandchildren visit your house, it is very important that you treat your edibles like poison and keep them somewhere safe. Kids may eat more than one, and a large dose can cause “changes in blood pressure, heart rate, severe tiredness, trouble breathing, and even coma,” according to the Upstate New York Poison Center.

Driving, Working While Using Cannabis

Driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in every state. Whether or not pot is legal in your state, you can be convicted of a marijuana-related DUI. But states differ according to the letter of the law. Read up on DUIs for driving high and research the law in your particular state.

Using cannabis at work can still get you fired or denied a job in most states. That’s true even if you have a medical marijuana card and you’re taking the cannabis in your free time. Some employers are required by federal law to test for marijuana, while others feel it’s a matter of safety in the workplace. If you need/want to use pot at work, read up on the latest workplace regulations. Currently, there is no relief on this point from the ADA, which does not prohibit employers from having a drug-free workplace policy. Read more about the ADA and cannabis use.

Cannabis may become an important part of your healthcare regimen. Marijuana may help you sleep better, or free you from constant pain. It could reduce anxiety and worry. It’s more available than ever, and there are endless resources to help you decide how you’d like to try it. Just remember to consult with your doctor first, start with a very low dose, and make sure to keep your cannabis products away from children. 


Blog posting provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Saturday, December 17, 2022

What Taxes Will I Pay in Retirement?

Taxes may be a senior’s biggest expense in retirement. From Social Security to your IRA, here’s what you’ll be giving Uncle Sam.  

Some people, even big earners, hear that they won’t be paying payroll taxes in retirement and mistakenly believe they won’t be paying any tax at all. For most of us, that’s just not the case and it is important that retirement planning includes an allowance for taxes. 

The amount of your federal tax liability once you have retired will depend on:
  • Your filing status 
  • Your sources of income
  • Your total annual income

State Tax 

While some states don’t charge any tax on income, others have a variety of rates. Most also include tax breaks of various sorts for seniors. Some allow a certain amount of tax-free retirement income, and some don’t tax Social Security. For details on your particular state, check here. If you’re considering moving, make sure you know the tax laws in your potential new state before making a decision.

What If I’m Working?

If you continue to work after you’re collecting retirement income, or if you pick up another job, you’ll still owe Medicare and Social Security payroll taxes on that income. However, you may be able to boost your Social Security payment. On the downside, there are consequences if you haven’t yet reached your full retirement age and are taking Social Security. Make sure you know all the rules before you go back to work to avoid any surprises.

If you are working and you haven’t yet retired, a handy tool for estimating both federal and state taxes together can be found here.

One type of account you won’t have to worry about is a Roth IRA. You’ve already paid tax on that money when you put it in, and it compounds tax-free. If the account is at least five years old, you won’t pay tax on withdrawals. Roth 401(K) accounts are not taxed, provided they meet certain requirements. But other sources of income are treated differently.

Social Security Taxes

You’ll likely be paying tax on your Social Security benefit unless it’s your only source of income. More than half of beneficiaries will pay some tax for 2022, up from 10% in 1984, when the tax was instituted. according to the Social Security Administration. Depending on your total income and filing status, you may owe tax on from 50% to 85% of your Social Security income.

For the 2022 tax year, individuals with less than $25,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI) won’t pay federal tax on their benefits. Individual filers with $25,000 to $34,000 AGI will pay on up to 50% of benefits, while single filers with more than $34,000 in AGI will owe taxes on up to 85% of their Social Security benefits. For married couples filing jointly, those limits rise to $32,000 AGI owing no tax on benefits, $32,000 to $44,000 owing on up to 50%, while those couples with more than $44,000 AGI will pay on up to 85% of their combined benefits.

IRA and 401(k) Income Tax

Withdrawals from traditional IRAs are taxed at your ordinary income rate. You must make mandatory withdrawals, called required minimum distributions (RMD)s, starting at age 72. The RMD is a percentage of your IRA account balance as of the end of the year. That distribution must be taken by the end of the following year. The percentage that you must take increases each year and is based on your age.

Go here to calculate your RMD. 

Income from 401(k), 403(b), or 457 salary reduction plans is also taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. 

Taxes on Pensions

Pension income, and income from tax-deferred annuities, is taxed in the year it is withdrawn. You will pay tax at your ordinary income rate. You will pay tax on income from periodic pension payments and pension annuities as you receive it. If you choose to receive a direct lump-sum benefit, you must pay tax on all of that money in the year in which you get it. If you transfer a lump sum directly over to an IRA, taxes are deferred until you withdraw it.

Taxable Accounts

Interest on money in taxable accounts gets taxed at your regular rate. But capital gains and qualifying dividends get special treatment. If you’ve owned the investment for at least a year and one day, the capital gains rate is between 0% and 20%, depending on your tax bracket. 

The bottom line is, a good tax professional is essential to help mitigate your tax burden in retirement. Tax experts can minimize how much you’ll pay via a variety of strategies, from varying which accounts you draw from to helping you make wise charitable donations. They can also help you slide under the limits for increases in Medicare premiums in ways that are perfectly legal. Taxes in retirement are no less complicated than in your working years, so make sure you’re taking advantage of all the rules.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Crystallized vs. Fluid Intelligence in Older Adults

Seniors have a secret weapon when it comes to brain power.

Have you ever found yourself struggling to grasp a concept that you feel you would have picked up more easily when you were younger? It can be frustrating and even a little frightening to feel like we can’t keep up with younger coworkers, or just learn the technology our grandkids absorb in a heartbeat. But it turns out that older adults have an unseen, and often unrecognized, advantage to problem solving that takes decades to develop.

There are two types of intelligence, fluid and crystallized. Although the concepts have some overlap, fluid intelligence is generally what you use to learn new information, and crystallized intelligence is using what you have already learned to solve a problem. Here’s more of a breakdown.

Fluid intelligence is your ability to:
  • Reason
  • Recognize patterns
  • Solve problems
  • Adapt to your environment and the world

Crystallized intelligence is the knowledge you’ve gained through previous exposure to a concept or principle. The two are not mutually exclusive; most problem-solving involves a combination of fluid and crystallized intelligence. However, fluid intelligence seems to peak at about age 20, while crystallized intelligence accrues over a lifetime and may peak at about age 65 or above. 

In many cases, we use fluid and crystallized intelligence together. For instance, an emergency room doctor may employ fluid intelligence to assess a new patient and arrive at a possible diagnosis, but crystallized intelligence gained from experience with similar patients will help guide that decision, and it is crystallized intelligence she will call on to come up with a treatment plan. 

Comparing Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence

The Older Team Wins

One experiment that demonstrates the higher level of crystallized intelligence in older adults involved two teams of four people each. The first team was made up of adults in their early twenties, while everyone on the second team was at least sixty. 

Researchers hung three light bulbs in one room. In another room with no windows, they wired three on/off switches that each connected to one of the bulbs. The eight participants were each taken to the room with the switches and asked to flip them to determine which switch was connected to which bulb. 

To solve the problem, a person needed to switch one bulb on for a minute or so, then turn it off. One of the other switches needed to be in the “on” position, and the third switch needed to be off. Then, the person would go into the room with the bulbs. One would be on. Of the two that were off, one would be warm from the time that it was switched on before being turned off. 

Only one member of the younger team knew how to solve the problem, but three out of four older adults got it right. Crystallized intelligence, learned over a lifetime, allowed them to figure out the solution. Reasoning (fluid intelligence) was certainly involved, but they had to know and remember that light bulbs become warm when they are turned on, even for sixty seconds.

On-the-Job Applications

Internal biases may lead to age discrimination in the workplace, but seniors, by the very fact that they are older, are likely to make better managers and contribute skills that are complementary to those of their younger coworkers. Companies tend to promote workers to management positions who have shown skill in another role, such as a salesman. 

But being an exceptional salesman doesn’t necessarily equate to being an exceptional leader of other salesmen. Leadership skills are often best acquired through experience, via the crystallized intelligence that is conferred over time. Hiring managers would do well to consider diversifying and strengthening management by actively seeking older applicants with a corresponding wealth of crystallized intelligence to provide direction and vision.

It is a bit demoralizing to know that our cognitive skills tend to decline with aging. But take heart in the knowledge that your database of learned knowledge is always increasing. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Hearing Aids Are Much Cheaper Now

Relaxed regulations make hearing aids much more affordable, and the devices don’t require an exam or prescription. 

Hearing loss can contribute to a host of seemingly unrelated issues, such as problems walking, falls, dementia, and depression. Yet less than a fifth of Americans with hearing loss use hearing aids, mainly due to the expense. Medicare doesn’t cover them, and prescription hearing aids can set seniors back to the tune of $1,000 to $6,000 per ear, plus the cost of getting examined and fitted by a specialist. 

That’s all changed now, thanks to new federal regulations that allow a new category of hearing aids to bypass state dispensing laws. Consumers can buy these over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids directly in stores and online. You will fit them yourself, and some models will allow you to control and adjust them yourself, too. Just like prescription hearing aids, they make sounds louder to enable adults to communicate better and participate more fully in everyday activities. 

Finding More Information  

To read more about hearing loss and the new devices, go to the following sites:

What to Know Before You Buy

To guide your purchase of an over-the-counter hearing aid, the Hearing Loss Association of America has put out a tip sheet. It includes the following list of important things to know before you buy:
  • Is there a free trial period, or money-back return policy?
  • Does it need a smartphone, app, or computer to install, operate and customize to my needs?
  • Is it compatible with cellphones or smartphones?
  • Does it have connectivity via Bluetooth or telecom to a smartphone, computer or listening system?
  • Can the hearing aid’s amplification be adjusted?
  • Is it water/sweat resistant?
  • How does it control, reduce, or block out background or wind noise?
  • How long is the battery life? Can it be recharged?

Mild to Moderate Hearing Loss

The new devices are intended only for adults with mild to moderate loss of hearing, not for children or those with more severe hearing loss. You are probably a candidate if you answer yes to at least one of the following questions:
  • Do you have trouble hearing easily in quiet, one-on-one situations?
  • Are there some difficult hearing situations where you would like to have a hearing boost, as opposed to needing it all the time?
  • Do you turn up the volume on the phone or TV to hear better at a level that is considered loud by other people?

Food and Drug Administration Approval

These new devices are clearly labeled as FDA approved to distinguish them from personal sound amplification (PSAP) devices that amplify sound (used by birdwatchers, among others) but don’t address background noise or distortion. Regulations from the FDA, which considers OTC hearing aids to be medical devices, ensure that they are safe and effective. They must not be overly loud, have required labeling outside and inside the container, and meet other requirements. Look for devices with extended return policies. You may need to try more than one brand.

Where to Get Them

Currently, the devices are available at Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Best Buy, and supermarket chain Hy-Vee. Expect more companies to jump into the market soon, as consumer demand and the number of brands of devices available climb.

Walgreens is selling devices online as well as in its stores nationwide for $799 a pair. 

CVS has models available on its website that range from $199 to $999. It also offers hearing devices at select pharmacy locations.

Walmart is rolling out OTC hearing aids at stores in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas, as well as additional locations nationwide. Prices vary from $199 to $999. If you can’t find them at a nearby store, Walmart is offering them online.

Electronics retailer Best Buy is also jumping in the ring with 20 different models ranging from $200 to $3,000 at more than 300 stores across the country and online.

You can walk into a Hy-Vee in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, or Wisconsin to check out three models ranging in price from $499.99 to $999, or visit the store online.

Which Models Are Best?

As with so many consumer products, it’s impossible to gauge which is the best for the price just by reading the package. Luckily, others have already done the work for you. One good source is Wirecutter, an arm of The New York Times that focuses on reviewing retail products. Very knowledgeable folks there spent two years testing OTC devices to come up with their favorites.

Wirecutter chose Lively 2 Plus ($1,295 from Lively) and Pro ($1,695 from Lively) if you’re new to hearing aids. They offer multiple sound modes, Bluetooth capability, and an app that’s easy to use. The Pro model can handle phone calls. And they’re both rechargeable, so forget about changing batteries.

If you hate behind-the-ear aids, then a good choice is the Eargo 6 ($2,650 from Eargo). They fit inside your ear and don’t get in the way of glasses. If you’re an iOS user who prefers the look of earbuds, try the Jabra Enhance Plus ($800 from Best Buy). They’ll last 10 hours on a charge and work great for calls, too. 

Another great site for reviews comes from USA Today. You’ll find reviews of many models under $1,000, as well as some more expensive options. 

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with mild to moderate hearing loss, you can probably afford to do something about it now. You’ll have to do your homework and start researching products, but there are some great sites that make it easier than ever. 

Friday, December 9, 2022

Watch Your Taxes and Benefits if You Get Social Security

Social Security beneficiaries will see a big jump in benefits in 2023. Yippee! But the increased income could trigger higher taxes.

An 8.7% cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2023 to seniors claiming Social Security is the highest in 40 years. But although the extra income is welcomed by older adults caught in the vise of rising prices due to inflation, it could mean higher taxes and premiums. Strategic tax planning will be necessary for many retirees to avoid paying Uncle Sam more for benefits. 

The large COLA is “great” for seniors, according to Brian Vosberg, a certified financial planner and president of Vosberg Wealth in Glendora, California. But there are hidden pitfalls to the increase for retirees. “While they’re excited to see the increase coming, they’re not really envisioning what the impact can be from a tax standpoint,” he says.

One important aspect of these increases is that the cutoff points are cliffs, rather than glide paths. If you are $1 over the limit, you will pay the increase. That’s why it’s so important to pay strict attention to the specific dollar amounts.

Social Security Taxes

Take Social Security itself. Taxes on benefits are based on a combined income formula that combines your adjusted gross income with nontaxable interest and half of your Social Security benefits. Your interest next year could be higher since rates have gone up, and added to higher benefits you may go over the tax threshold. It starts at just $25,000 for individuals and $32,000 for married couples. 

Single filers with from $25,000 to $34,000 in combined income owe tax on up to half of their benefits. The threshold goes up to between $32,000 and $44,000 for married earners. Above those levels, up to 85% of Social Security may be taxed. 

Taxes on benefits were initiated in 1983 when a mere 8% of families made enough income to owe them. But because the income levels have never been adjusted, approximately 56% of families paid taxes on benefits in 2021, according to the Center for Retirement Research. 

Medicare Part B Premiums

Starting in 2007, Part B Medicare premiums are based on income. These levels affect higher earners, or about 7% of beneficiaries. Premiums for full Part B coverage in 2023 are shown in the following government-provided table.


Medicare Part D Premiums

If your income puts you in a category for higher payments on your Part B premiums, you will also owe more for Part D coverage. Instituted in 2011, premium payments bump up for individual filers with an AGI higher than $97,000 and married couples whose AGI tops $194,000. Check out the government-provided chart below for specifics for both individuals and married couples filing jointly.


Low-Income Benefits May Be Taken Away

You may think you’ve dodged a bullet if you are in a low income bracket, but you could be mistaken. Seniors receiving government assistance for benefits such as Medicare Extra Help, Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and rental help could be eligible for less or no aid if their income crosses certain thresholds.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have eligibility requirements for Medicare Extra Help. Medicaid eligibility varies by state, so check your state for cutoffs. Visit the website for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to check eligibility for SNAP. Find eligibility limits for Section 8 housing here

How to Avoid Higher Taxes and Premiums

The bottom line is that a professional tax planner or tax-focused financial planner may be essential for most retirees in 2023, even if you haven’t used one before. They can run the numbers and determine if you need to take a bit less out of your taxable account, and a bit more out of a Roth, or other workarounds. 

But don’t wait to visit until April 15. The time to see a professional advisor is now when you can edit withdrawals for next year. Plan ahead so you can keep more of your Social Security increase to fight inflation.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

December 6 - Andrew Cuomo, politician and governor of New York

Born into a political family, Cuomo’s father was a three-term governor of New York, and his first wife was a member of the famous Kennedy clan. Andrew Cuomo became an attorney and was campaign manager for his father’s 1982 gubernatorial run before working as an assistant New York City district attorney. He ran for governor in 2002 but failed to win the primary before succeeding in getting elected in 2010. 

A Democrat, Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act for same-sex marriage, the Compassionate Care Act to legalize marijuana for medical use, and oversaw a slew of infrastructure improvements, including the reconstruction of LaGuardia airport. He also signed a restive gun control act after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. Cuomo expanded Medicaid, lowered taxes on the middle class, and instituted 12-week paid family leave. 

He was riding high for his adept handling of the COVID-19 crisis until it was discovered that his administration had withheld information regarding the number of deaths among nursing home residents. Late in 2020, he faced allegations of sexual harassment amid the MeToo movement which eventually led to President Biden requesting his resignation. 

Cuomo may not be done with public office. In his initial public appearance after his resignation, he hinted at a comeback after lamenting his fall from grace. "The press roasted me, my colleagues were ridiculed, my brother was fired,” he declared. “It was ugly. It was probably the toughest time of my life." But in a church setting he also stated, "Contrary to what my political opponents would have you believe, nothing I did violated the law or the regulation."

Image Source: Wikipedia

December 9 - Donny Osmond, singer

Remember Tiger Beat magazine? Donny Osmond was one of its top “cover boys” back in the early 1970s after his first solo hit, “Sweet and Innocent,” hit No. 7 in the US. As one of the Osmond Brothers, a family with a genetic inclination toward great teeth and hair, he burst into stardom at age five singing “You Are My Sunshine” on The Andy Williams Show along with his male siblings.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Osmond always had a squeaky-clean image. It served him well early on when his major appeal was to younger viewers, but for his solo career in the 1980s he needed to appeal to a more adult audience to improve his “unhip image.” A publicist famously suggested that his best move would be to get arrested for drug possession on purpose, but that didn’t prove necessary as Osmond gradually improved his pop persona and went No. 2 on the charts with “Soldier of Love” in 1989.

Osmond paired up with sister Marie from 1976 to 1979 for a popular variety series called Donny & Marie. The pair scored with a string of top ten hits and gold albums, then reprised their television partnership with a syndicated talk show in the late 1990s. They also headlined at the Flamingo Las Vegas in an 11-year run from 2008 to 2019. 

No bio of Osmond would be complete without mentioning his winning ways on Season 9 of Dancing with the Stars, or his runner-up status on the initial season of The Masked Singer. The star has done a multitude of other projects, including a Broadway run in the 1990s in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Osmond is married to his first and only wife, with five sons and 13 grandchildren.

Image Source: Wikipedia

December 21 - Ray Romano, actor

A standup comedian and screenwriter as well as an actor, Ray Romano will always be best known for his starring role as Ray Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. The series made him a household name (and earned the actor several Emmy Awards), and it also made him rich. In 2004 Romano became the highest-paid television actor ever, and the show had the highest-grossing revenue of $3.9 billion. 

Romano began his career on the comedy circuit, culminating with an appearance on CBSs’ Late Show with David Letterman. Romano also performed the opening monologue for the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 1998. He was a creator and star of the TNT comedy drama Men of a Certain Age and was often seen portraying Hank Rizzoli in Parenthood.

If you want a real-life look at the actor, check out the documentary film 95 Miles to Go. Released in 2010, it follows Raymond on a road trip across the southern US.


Image Source: Wikipedia

December 30 - Matt Lauer, TV host and newsman

Before his dethroning over allegations of sexual abuse, Matt Lauer was the quintessential American news broadcast interviewer and host. He not only anchored the news and then hosted The Today Show, but he was co-host of Today for 20 years. Adding to his aura of respectability and apple-pie American, Lauer hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and shared hosting duties for several Olympics opening ceremonies. 

Lauer got his career start on the East Coast with talk programs and informational shows. He began gaining national prominence in the 1980s and wound up in New York City in 1989 to host 9 Broadcast Plaza. The show, a series of 3-hour live interviews, honed his skills and eventually led to him joining NBC in 1992. Lauer interviewed a wide variety of celebrities and elite power players from British princes to American presidents, as well as commenting on world events. His 2016 contract reportedly guaranteed him a salary of $20 million per year.

Everything changed in November of 2017 when Lauer was accused of inappropriate conduct. The network cited a report involving “a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” that they had “reason to believe” was not an isolated incident. Lauer was fired immediately. He later admitted that "some of what is being said about me is untrue or mischaracterized, but there is enough truth in these stories to make me feel embarrassed and ashamed.”


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, November 27, 2022

LED Light Therapy to Combat Wrinkles and More

LED light therapy has come into vogue as a noninvasive way to treat a host of conditions, especially on the skin. We explain what it is and how it works. 

NASA started investigating the unique properties of light-emitting diode (LED) colored light in the ‘60s on plants sent to space, and the Navy SEALS began to use it in the ‘90s to help heal wounds faster and regenerate damaged muscle. Now, the lights are used to mitigate several conditions found primarily on the skin. Older adults as a whole may be particularly interested in their ability to erase fine lines and soften the color of spots. 

LED light therapy has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
  • Age spots
  • Basal cell carcinoma (when small and superficial), a common skin cancer
  • Eczema
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Psoriasis
  • Actinic keratosis (rough, scaly, precancerous spots on the skin)
  • Rosacea
  • Sun damage
  • Wounds
  • Wrinkles

LED Light Therapy Safety

Generally, LED light therapy is considered safe when used alone or at your doctor’s office. It is not invasive or damaging, such as dermabrasion or acid peels. However, long-term studies are lacking.

When LED Light Therapy Should Be Avoided

While LED light therapy is appropriate for all skin types and colors, there are some people who should avoid it.
  • People who take medications that increase their sensitivity to sunlight, such as isotretinoin (Retin A) and lithium.
  • Those who have a history of skin cancer and inherited eye diseases.

The FDA has approved a variety of devices that emit LED light for use at home. These are less powerful than those found at medical facilities, but you still must be careful to shield your eyes while using them. Neutrogena was compelled to recall its Light Therapy Acne Mask due to concern that it could damage the eyes of people with certain eye conditions or whose eyes are more sensitive to light due to medication. 

Be sure to consult your doctor before using LED light therapy. For example, some people may want to lessen what appears to be a little sun damage, but a visit to the doctor can reveal skin cancer or another condition that requires a different treatment. 

LED Colors Penetrate Different Depths

Different colors of LED light, created from different wavelengths, travel to different depths in the skin. Wavelength is measured in nanometers. From most shallow to deepest penetrating, the colors of LED light are:
  • Purple light 400-420 nm
  • Blue light 440-500 nm
  • Cyan light 500-520 nm
  • Green light 520-565 nm
  • Yellow light 565-590 nm
  • Orange light 590-565 nm
  • Red light 625-700 nm
  • Infrared light 750-1000 nm

Red and Blue LEDs Used Most

Red LED light therapy is the most commonly used in aesthetics. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen production. Collagen is a protein that makes skin appear smoother and softer; the body produces less of it with age. Collagen is also important for healing wounds. Increasing collagen can lower redness, swelling, and bruising, and speed up the healing process. 

Red LED light therapy has also been shown to stimulate hair growth for people with male- or female-pattern baldness. Red and near-infrared wavelengths have been used to reduce the redness and inflammation of psoriasis. One study showed that these LED light colors also reduced the red, itchy patches, or plaques, caused by psoriasis.

Sports performance can be enhanced using red LED light therapy over a large portion of the body, according to some sports clinics that point to peer-reviewed studies to back up their claims. They promote consistent, multiple exposures to the light for better sleep, enhanced blood flow, more energy, better physical performance, and quicker recovery. 

Red and green LED lights have been used to treat skin cancers, and red LED light therapy has been used to treat the lesions caused by basal cell carcinoma.

Blue LED light therapy destroys the bacteria that cause acne and acts to diminish oil production in the sebaceous glands. This combination fights acne and allows the skin to heal.

Dermatologists may use a combination of light colors to treat individual issues.


There are two ways to get treatment with LED light therapy. The first is with medical-grade equipment in a healthcare setting, such as a dermatologist’s office. The second is via a device that has been purchased over the counter. Either way, multiple treatments will be required as well as follow-up exposures that are more spaced out.

A facility with medical-grade equipment may require a series of 10 visits at weekly intervals, for example, although it will vary widely with what is being treated and how. That is a common regimen for facial rejuvenation. Each treatment may require exposure to LED light therapy for around 10 to 20 minutes and take place at weekly intervals. Patients report that the cost per treatment varies from about $25 to $85, depending on the market in a particular area. Then, you may need to visit once every month or so to maintain the result.

An alternative is to buy your own personal device. Many are available online; be sure to purchase eye protection at the same time. There are handhelds, wands, folding devices, and those used to target specific areas like the neck and upper chest. Cost varies widely, from about $50 to many hundreds of dollars, generally depending on size. 

Having a personal device would seem to be a great solution. You can use it at your own convenience for a great number of sessions. However, the LED light emitters sold for home therapy are not as strong as those used by medical professionals and may take many more sessions — even several a day — for a similar result, or they may not deliver a similar result. The FDA only reviews devices for safety, not for quality or efficacy.


Because the LED lights are non-invasive, you can go from your treatment right back to your daily activities. Results may start to appear after your first session, but don’t expect anything dramatic. Take a look at some before and after photos and remember that these tend to be the best cases. 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Elder Index Shows Many Seniors in Poverty While Aid Goes Unclaimed

Many older adults struggle to make ends meet every month, unaware that billions of dollars’ worth of aid is going unclaimed.  

Elaine Ross was living in central Florida in 2007 when a hurricane destroyed her home. Her insurance didn’t cover most of her belongings, so she started working two jobs to compensate. She and her husband were able to buy another home. Then, a pair of falls resulted in a broken leg and three hip replacement surgeries. Pain forced her to quit working in 2016. She now gets $919 per month in Social Security Disability Insurance. 

Her husband also quit working in 2016, due to back troubles. He has a Social Security check of $1,051 for a grand total of $23,600 and change annually between the two. Their savings are long gone, spent on emergencies, and they had to sell their home. They now rent a place in Alabama for $540 a month, but they are struggling, and inflation has been a major challenge.

"It's awful,” Elaine says. "I know I'm not the only old person in this situation, but it pains me that I lived my whole life doing all the right things to be in the situation I'm in.”

Elder Index Reflects True Cost

About half of single older adults have incomes below what is needed to pay for essential expenses, according to researchers at the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. They developed the Elder Index to measure the true cost of living for older adults. The index gathers information from public databases to calculate the cost of health care, housing, food, transportation, and other expenses for seniors on an essentials-only budget. The amount is adjusted according to their level of health, whether they rent or own housing, and if they are+ living alone or as part of a couple.

Federal Programs 

These federal programs may provide you with the lifeline you need:

In every state, the cost of living for older adults is greater than federal poverty thresholds, which are often used to calculate need. For instance, the Elder Index for 2021 estimated a 
single older adult in good health renting housing needed $27,096, on average. That amount is $14,100 more than the federal poverty level, which is used to determine eligibility for everything from Medicaid to food stamps and housing assistance. 

"The poverty rate just doesn't cut it as a realistic look at the struggles older adults are having," says William Arnone, chief executive officer of the National Academy of Social Insurance. "The Elder Index is a reality check.”

Aid is Available

There is help for older adults, but they must apply. 14 million adults age 60 and above qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) but they haven’t applied. Another 3.5 million seniors age 65 or older could benefit from Medicare Savings Programs that cover Medicare premiums and cost sharing, but they haven’t signed up. And 30% to 45% of older adults would qualify for the Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy Program if they would apply. 

Not all cost cutting programs are need based. For instance, home-delivered meals and legal assistance for seniors in danger of home foreclosure or eviction are available to all older adults, although the neediest may be served first. And property tax breaks are available to all homeowners 65 and up.

“You’ve earned these benefits,” says Josh Hodges, chief customer officer at the National Council on Aging, a group that advocates for seniors. Older adults should think of these benefits “like their Medicare, like their Social Security.”

Where to Look for Help

The first organization to contact is your local Area Agency on Aging, which can perform benefits assessments or point you to a group that can. Staffers will often help seniors fill out application forms for benefits from federal, state, and local programs that offer help with transportation, health care, utility charges, and other basic needs. Don’t wait until an emergency to see if you qualify. And if you would rather do the checking yourself, use BenefitsCheckUp. 

“Even if you think you might not qualify, you should apply because there are different rules across states,” said Meredith Freed, a senior policy analyst for the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy.

As of this writing, the cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security recipients is expected to be 8.7% in 2023, according to The Senior Citizens League, a non-partisan group that advocates for older adults. That is the highest percentage in 41 years. While that will throw a lifeline to older Americans, it is important to remember that much more help is available for those who reach out to get it.

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


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Seniors Welcome Housemates for Income and Company

Inflation has put a squeeze on the budgets of older adults but opening the door to a roommate can relieve the pressure and — in the best cases — add a friend.  

Plenty of older men and women are opening up to the idea of having a roommate, or “boommate,” as the baby boomer generation copes with rising prices. According to a recent AARP survey, 70% of adults over 50 are open to sharing their home with a family member who is not a spouse, more than half (51%) would share with a friend and 6% are open to sharing with a stranger. Tellingly, out of those who said they’d never share their home, 23% admitted they would change their tune if they needed the money.

“With the boomers aging, you see higher and higher numbers in shared housing,” says Rodney Harrell, vice president of family, home, and community at AARP. He finds that the current generation of retirees is more open to experimenting with alternative solutions to the traditional models of aging.

Four Housemates Share Space

In Asheville, NC, Marianne Kilkenny, 63, shares a home with three other women who range in age from 48 to 69. Kilkenny also owns a coaching business for prospective house sharers and offers workshops on the topic. Each woman has a bedroom and bathroom of her own, and they share a meal together a minimum of once a week. Two of the renters are divorced, and the third never married. 

House Rules 

If you’re considering getting a housemate, make sure to spell out house rules clearly in the lease or other signed document. Items to consider:
  • Smoking ban or limitations.
  • Who is expected to clean where and how often.
  • Can overnight guests visit? For how long?
  • Will one person pay the bills?
  • Collecting first and last months’ rent.
  • What about meal sharing/cooking? 
  • How will common rooms be used?
  • What about pets?
  • How long is the lease?
  • What is your exit strategy?

Kilkenny herself moved in at night a couple of years ago. It was pitch black, and one of the other housemates had made sure there was a light on to welcome her. “I was so moved,” she says. “It’s the little things that mean so much. Feeling cared about is worth going through some of the conflict that will occur.”

Another statistic that points to an increase in the trend of seniors living together is the number of older singles. One out of every three boomers is likely to reach old age without a spouse, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research. The rate of divorce for those 50 and over is twice what it was in 1990, and adult children are more likely to live far away.

Women Housemates Outnumber Men

Often, it’s older women who choose to live together. On Let’s Share Housing, a Portland, OR, online service for homeowners and potential renters, about 80% of the clients are boomer females. Part of the sex-based discrepancy may be attributable to finances. 

A recent study by the TIAA Institute found that a pay gap still exists for women. in 1973, full-time female workers earned 56.6 cents for every dollar their male counterparts pulled in, and the current ratio is still just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the Census Bureau. That may help explain why the median retirement balance at TIAA for participants 50 through 64 is $221,492 for men, but only $117,040 for women. At age 65 and up, the median balance for men increases to $491,621 but less than half that ($204,304) for women.

Social Security is impacted by earnings. Here again, the average monthly benefit is higher ($1,824) for men than women ($1,437), according to 2020 numbers. Women are more likely to sacrifice their career to become caregivers, lowering both income and savings, according to TIAA notes. 

Friendship in the Big Apple

Retired copywriter Debbi Campbell never expected to want a roommate, but after her longtime live-in boyfriend died of cancer, that changed. She met Loretta Halter, a retired grocery manager, at a cultural event in New York City. Halter had used a local home sharing program when she moved to the city years earlier but wasn’t satisfied with her match. The pair went through the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens home-share program that handles background checks and administrative details to find their rent-controlled apartment in Greenwich Village. 

“First, we started with the crossword and the jigsaw puzzles, and the TV, and it turned out well,” Campbell says. She was pleasantly surprised at how well they got along. “I mean, I’m one of those people who’s spent a good time of my life in therapy, mostly complaining about people I knew.”

Campbell retired in October 2020, a little earlier than she’d expected. “I had not been desperate over money, but having a pandemic come, suddenly you have company where you wouldn’t have. And suddenly there is extra money for you from home sharing, which I wouldn’t have had. It was just a bonanza. I feel like the luckiest person of the pandemic,” she says.