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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

What to Try Before Getting Knee Replacement Surgery

Surgery is stressful for anyone, and some older adults are unable to undergo surgical procedures. Before you get a knee replacement, try these less-invasive alternatives. 

Anyone who has thought twice about walking somewhere because of knee pain knows how disabling it can be. Osteoarthritis is often the culprit, although other conditions or even an injury can cause nagging knee pain. Your doctor may have brought up the possibility of knee replacement surgery, but you want to put that off for a while, or preferably, forever. Is there anything you can try?

In fact, there are several strategies that may help you postpone knee replacement surgery or eliminate it altogether. As always, consult your doctor before trying any of these methods to make sure they are right for you. You may need to try just one or use a combination of tools to attack your knee pain. 

  • Lose weight. Nobody likes losing weight, but it can sure benefit a sore knee. Why? Research gathered at Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center demonstrates that not only does carrying excess pounds speed up the destruction of cartilage that cushions the knee joint, it also increases your chance of developing arthritis in the first place. For every pound of weight you lose, you’re taking four pounds of pressure off your knees. And extra weight also adds to inflammation throughout your body, leading to more pain in that swollen knee.

How Prevalent is Knee Surgery?

It seems like everyone knows someone who has had a knee replacement. Just how many people are getting them? A 2021 survey of the US population found that more women (3 million) than men (1.7 million) had the procedure, and prevalence increased with age. Among the total population, 1.52% had a knee replacement, but that number rose to a high of 10.38% at age 80, after which it declined. These numbers are likely to be higher in 2022. 

  • Move. The last thing you may feel like doing is exercising, but low-impact movement can help reduce your knee pain in several ways. Exercise stimulates fluid flow around the knee joint and improves flexibility. Building up the muscles around your knee will help stabilize the joint, giving it added support. It is normal to feel some pain, at least at first. That doesn’t mean you should quit, unless it is intense. Which exercise is best? Try swimming, cycling, strength training, yoga, or good old walking to minimize impact.
  • Try anti-inflammatory medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen are a good place to start. Check with your doctor first since these do have side effects and may interact with other drugs. If they’re not helping your pain, ask your doctor about prescription meds such as a higher-dose NSAID, or COX-2 inhibitors that are NSAIDs that may be more effective at reducing inflammation. 
  • Gel joint injections. You may be a candidate for gel injections called viscosupplementation. These contain hyaluronic acid, a fluid found naturally in knee joints that increases lubrication, reduces swelling, and promotes the growth of bone and new cartilage. Better yet, a 2019 study found that recently developed mono injections of the gel could be as useful as an older course of weekly shots. However, the effects are almost always temporary.
  • Steroid injections. Corticosteroids can be delivered to your knee joint via cortisol, a substance naturally produced in the adrenal glands. These offer quick (as little as 24 hours to several days) relief by reducing inflammation, and the effect can last for three to six months. However, there are side effects that you will want to discuss with your doctor. 
  • Physical therapy. Also known as rehab, physical therapy features trained therapists guiding you through specialized exercises to strengthen muscles and loosen stiff knee joints. You may visit a therapist two or three times a week and do specified exercises at home on other days. Therapy can also include treatments such as massage.
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA eliminates knee pain by using heat to destroy the nerves that are responsible for telling your brain that your knees hurt. RFA is also a temporary fix since the nerves regenerate anywhere from six months to two years. 
  • Stem cell injections. This form of treatment, which involves injecting stem cells into the knee to regenerate tissue, is considered investigational and not recommended by the Arthritis Foundation, the American College of Rheumatology, or the FDA as of 2019. However, new studies could change that opinion at any time. Check here if you’d like to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming trial.
  • Unispacer. Also known as a Unicondylar Interpositional Spacer, the device cushions the space between the two leg bones that are grinding together. While being considerably less invasive than getting a new joint, it may not be effective for seniors whose arthritis is advanced. 
  • Genicular artery embolization (GAE). One of the causes of pain for older adults with osteoarthritis is the development of abnormal blood vessels. GAE blocks these blood vessels, reducing both inflammation and pain. 
  • Orthobiologics. An emerging field, orthobiolobics, or regenerative medicine, uses natural, tissue-derived product to help the body heal itself. These are often used in conjunction with other treatment(s). Some of these alternatives use platelet-rich plasma (PRP), bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC), or placental tissue matrix therapy (PTMT). 

It is important to listen to your doctor before deciding on a therapy regimen. As always, it’s unwise to latch on to a course of action solely based on internet research. Start there, but rely on trained medical professionals to answer your questions and guide you through personalized therapy. It could be that knee replacement is still the best option for you now, or will be in the future. However, it doesn’t hurt to check if some of the methods listed above could help delay that day, or possibly even make it unnecessary. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Simple Ways to Get Higher Short-Term Returns Now

Many older Americans are looking for places to put cash to work for the near term. But where can seniors find decent return for funds that need to stay relatively liquid?  

Retirees have been rocked by inflation and downward volatility in the stock market in 2022. In such uncertain times, it is nice to have a cash cushion to draw from, but not so easy to find investments that yield more than a pittance. Senior Spirit tracked down some places where you can stash your money for a few months or a few years and be sure that you’ll have more of it when you need to take it out.

What is Short Term?

A short-term investment is generally considered one that you’ll hold from a few months up to five years. That’s long enough that you want to see some return, but generally not an adequate time to invest in riskier assets like the stock market, which can plunge unexpectedly and stay down for years, even though it’s a great bet for the long run. 

Credit Union Pros and Cons 

If you have never used a credit union, it’s time to check them out. These member-owned, not-for-profit bank alternatives have a lot to offer. Most will let you become a member with a $5 deposit, so it’s worth poking around to find one with the best rate, unless you would prefer to support your own community. What can a credit union offer that a big bank usually cannot?
  • Lower fees
  • Better rates on CDs and savings
  • Lower rates on loans
  • Commitment to members
  • Financial education

Credit unions are not driven by profit, so they may offer free financial workshops, for example, or scholarships in their local community. However, there is also a downside. You may be able to find a better rate at an online-only bank, which doesn’t have to bear the cost to maintain branches. If you like to bank in person, a credit union will have fewer branches than a big bank, unless it is part of a shared branch network and/or an ATM network. Finally, some small credit unions may not offer the number of products a major bank does, and they may offer less technology such as online and mobile banking. 

Short-term investments carry less risk, but they also don’t offer as much return as investments with a longer time to compound. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for the highest return on your cash. The best options can vary based on how long you’d like to hold on to your money, so we’ve split our recommendations into three categories based on your holding timeframe.

Under Two Years

If you are likely to need the cash within the next couple of years, then holding it in a very low-risk savings account, money market account, or certificate of deposit (CD) may be your best option. Bump up your rewards by using an online bank such as Ally or a credit union. Did you know about no-penalty CDs? These CDs allow you to liquidate within a week or two of purchase, meaning that if the rate goes up, you are not locked into your current return. They are also perfect for money that needs to remain very liquid. Rates and availability vary by institution.

US Treasury securities, or T-Bills, have terms of 4, 8, 13, 26, and 52 weeks so they are also great for very short-term investing, and they’re practically free of risk. Check current rates before you invest.

Tip: Make sure that the rate on your CD is more than what you could get in a savings account. Currently, for example, CDs that mature in a few months at Ally Bank earn less than a savings account, which won’t tie up your money. Compare all your options before pulling the trigger.

Two to Three Years

Check out the yield on a short-term bond fund, which is a loan to a company or government that pays a set amount for borrowing. For tax-free returns that you would hold in a taxable account, look at municipal bonds, offered by states and cities, and government bonds issued by the US. Avoid junk bonds, which are more likely to default.

Three to Five Years 

CDs have a very low risk for money you will hold for a few years. “Raise your rate” CDs are an option that is especially appealing in times of rising interest rates. They give you the opportunity to literally raise the rate on your CD, usually once or twice during its duration, to catch up with current rates. 

If you have more appetite for risk, consider a peer-to-peer loan. Online sites such as Prosper allow you to lend to borrowers selectively. You can limit your loans to borrowers with better credit scores; you’ll earn less interest, but you have a better chance of getting your money back. To lower your risk even more, lend smaller chunks of money to a greater number of borrowers. And don’t forget to include the service fee paid by investors when you calculate your return. 

Finally, we can’t help mentioning Series I Savings Bonds, or I Bonds, available at Treasury Direct. The rate of return is changed twice a year based on inflation. You must own these bonds for at least a year. If you cash them after that, but before five years have passed, you’ll be penalized the last three months’ interest. As of this writing, I Bonds currently pay above 9%. And although an individual can only invest up to $10,000 annually, any businesses you have each qualify for a $10,000 purchase, as do many trusts. 

Tip: The FDIC insures deposits of up to $250,000 per qualified institution. If you have more cash than that, you may want to invest it in more than one financial institution.

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

Monday, September 19, 2022

Senior Referral and Placement: Finding a Reputable Agent

New national standards are among the criteria that can help you choose an excellent senior placement service.  

Often, the decision to move an older adult to a senior living community has to be made quickly. Mom has a fall and fractures her hip. Dad’s dementia progresses to a point where the family, or his wife, suddenly realizes he’s not safe at home anymore. The pressure to find a community with an opening that’s a good fit for the senior and within their budget can generate immense stress among all concerned. A good placement service agent is often the answer to calmly and capably help everyone sort out the options and make an informed choice. (See our August blog on downsizing for tips on what to do with excess household goods.)

The key is finding a placement service that has your best interest in mind. This requires knowledge of how referral and placement services operate, and how their owners and agents get paid. Although there’s no cut-and-dried agreement on the meaning of the terms “placement” and “referral,” one placement agent (who maintained confidentiality for their opinion) defines it this way:

What A Good Agent Can Do 

You may want to choose a placement agency before someone in your family has an accident or incident that causes them to need to move immediately. After all, you’ll want to evaluate communities together and come to a common conclusion, if at all possible. Why should you use a qualified placement agency?

Qualified placement agents will:
  • Respect your privacy
  • Be upfront about their compensation
  • Ask questions to learn what is important to you
  • Understand your financial situation
  • Provide tailored recommendations to meet your specific needs
  • Educate you on all your options, so you can make a quality decision
  • Tour a variety of communities with you
  • Ask questions of tour guides to help you evaluate the community
  • Keep abreast of any violations at area communities and communicate them to you
  • Meet with you to talk about what you learned
  • Help clarify factors that may influence your decision
  • Offer gentle and respectful guidance
  • Provide a variety of local resources you may need on your journey, such as elder law attorneys, Medicaid planners, veterans’ benefits information, moving and downsizing resources, and much more.

“To me, a ‘referral’ is a name and contact information, which is predominately used by the large online agencies. The term ‘placement,’ to me, means a completely different model, which includes spending time personally with the potential resident and their families. I believe a majority of providers have far more issues with ‘referral’ agencies than local ‘placement’ agencies.”

In my personal, anonymous opinion, referral services are just that: a process of using a wide net to collect names and sell them to senior living communities. There is no loyalty to the end user—that is, aging adults and their families who are looking for care. Sure, referral services don’t cost anything, but many times the information is overwhelming and not even tailored to meet those specific needs, so the family feels like they are going in circles. Referral companies may have quotas to meet and are limited in the amount of time they can speak to their customers. 

In contrast, placement services focus on taking the time to understand the goals and potential challenges that are unique to each family. These services identify all valid options that meet the specific needs of the family and hold their hand on the journey. For many people, searching for a senior living community is like navigating uncharted territory. It’s daunting and overwhelming, and many people who do this alone wish they would have had a trusted guide to help them. 

Placement encompasses respecting an individual’s autonomy and privacy while equipping them with the information they need to make the best decision for their specific situation. It’s not about handing someone a list. Placement companies never sell names, and they often spend hours and even weeks with families, as opposed to the minutes that referral agencies give their clients. Many of the reputable placement companies were started by social workers and nurses, not venture capitalists.

Referral Services May Disappoint

Many families go online to find a senior living community. A pair of referral services, A Place for Mom and dominate the market. They exist primarily as online directories to more than 20,000 partnered senior living communities. Both of these companies offer copious amounts of quality online content to attract potential customers. These services can and do connect people with good communities, but before choosing to work with them, be aware of how these companies make their placement decisions.

A Place for Mom advertises a “free” service, and while it is free to customers, the companies do get paid. When an older adult whom they referred enrolls in one of the communities in their network, the company usually earns the equivalent of a month’s rent, which can amount to many thousands of dollars. Agents often are remunerated with a cut of the proceeds and are thus incentivized to refer seniors to the priciest facility available.

While the company advertises that it will refer clients to appropriate facilities, it only considers those in its own network. Some may be excellent, and others not. Small, local operations may be missed entirely. And, when a customer types in their information, they may not read the fine print that says they can be contacted, again and again, by anyone the company shares it with. 

The people hired as “placement specialists” are not required to have any special education or training, nor to adhere to any regulatory or professional ethics standards. Referral services can hire whomever they want, and they want someone who will convert calls into money. 

Nevertheless, many senior living facilities sign up with these companies to get leads. “It’s a tool,” says Richard Hutchinson, CEO at Discovery Senior Living, which operates in 14 states. He once vowed never to use them, but now he thinks of their service like a credit card: expensive to use but a viable option when sales need a boost. “Every organization should think about using the service, but judiciously,” he says.

Finding A Reputable Agency

So, how can you choose an agent who prioritizes your interests? One option is to use a service listed with the National Placement & Referral Alliance (NPRA), an organization formed by the best actors in the industry to promote ethical services. The organization’s mission is “to cultivate the advancement of professionalism, fairness, and the development of the senior placement and referral industry through collective initiatives to better serve seniors and their families.” If you look at the code of ethics, NPRA members pledge to make sure the primary needs of their client should always be the primary consideration for recommendations, not financial incentives. They are bound to advise a client without pressure or coercion, to report abuse, and more.

The organization has a list of best practices that include having agents visit senior living providers in their area to research the facilities, keep track of any violations, and share those violations with clients. They will also try diligently to offer clients multiple options after touring facilities with them …not just read names of care facilities off a list. And NPRA members will disclose upfront how they are paid. 

Another option is to find a care management agency, often with a brick-and-mortar storefront. These smaller agencies hire licensed professionals trained in geriatric concerns, who will meet with the family and prospective resident as one part of an hours-long evaluation. You can find a listing of these agencies on the website of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, now part of the Aging Life Care Association.

The cost of this more traditional placement approach is about $300 to $800, according to Kaaren Boothroyd, the NAPGCM’s former executive director. It’s enough to deter many families. However, many consider it a small price to pay for individualized service from a knowledgeable advisor. 

State Legislation Emerging

The reason that some big players are still in the business is, in part, due to a lack of legislation at the federal and state levels in the industry as a whole. 

“We’re the only resource in the continuum of senior care that has no regulation,” said Liz Fischer, a CSA and president of the Oregon Senior Referral Agency Association. “There is currently no place to file a complaint about a referral agency and no penalties for causing harm to seniors. We don’t currently have background checks, so anybody could do this job and it could cause harm to seniors.”
Good players in the industry are pushing for laws to hold companies to high standards in an industry where the best have sometimes struggled to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field. Several states have led the way, including Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, with interest expressed by many more. While results have varied, these laws may eventually weed out the worst players. 

Moving to a senior living community can be a stressful event, both emotionally and physically. A good placement agent can smooth the way, helping the family evaluate the options on a variety of criteria to form a cohesive decision. Hopefully, new laws will emerge to guide families to agencies that have their best interests at heart.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Retiring to a Cruise Ship

Now that we can travel again, have you thought about living aboard a cruise ship? Plenty of seniors have embraced this option to spend their golden years on the high seas.  

They’re called “cult cruisers” and they are back in force. Retirees and others who spend most of their lives aboard big ships, moving from port to port, have proliferated in the last decade. Even the pandemic has not quelled their ardor for cruise life. 

Meet Linda Sloan Chalmers, 67, who picks the longest itineraries she can put together. She booked a total of 143 nights on board the Holland America line, her favorite, in April. The minute she goes up the gangplank she heads for the Blues club (available on many Holland America ships) and greets the bartenders (she knows most of them) and familiar crew members with gusto. 

Popular for Older Adults

When cruise review site Cruise Critic surveyed several thousand people in 2017, 59% were interested in retiring on a cruise ship, and an additional 27% said they’d like to look into the idea if they could afford it. “The average person is getting their week vacation and maximizes the week,” says Mark Tamis, the senior vice president of hotel operations for Royal Caribbean International. “But it’s not that uncommon to try to live on the ship.” Author “Mama” Lee Wachtstetter wrote an upbeat book, I May Be Homeless, But You Should See My Yacht, memorializing the 12 years she lived on cruise ships after her husband died.

How to Cut the Cost of Cruising 

  1. Be flexible. Many cruises don’t sell out, and prices will drop dramatically three to six weeks before departure. You may have to occupy a less-desirable room, but you’ll get rock-bottom rates. Sailing during “shoulder season,” just before or after high season, will save you money.
  2. Book early. By reserving a spot six to 18 months in advance, you may qualify for perks such as free specialty meals, beverage packages, shore excursions, and even gratuities. Ask about a cabin upgrade, too.
  3. Check for sales. Cruise Critic has a free weekly e-letter featuring deals. Talk to travel agents, who may know about unadvertised deals.
  4. Gather a group. The bigger the group, the greater the discount on many lines. If you get 14 friends to join you (two to a cabin) on Norwegian Cruise Line, you’re considered a “group planner” and may even get your trip covered.
  5. Book your next cruise on board. You can bag reduced deposits, flare discounts, and possibly free onboard credit for doing so. 

Rita Deitchman, 74, was on cruise number 196 this past spring. She books back-to-back trips and was devastated when Covid shut down what was essentially her home. She and her husband maintain a small condo in Fort Lauderdale, but they never thought they would be living there for months on end. “It was just meant to be a place to do laundry while we waited for the next cruise,” says Deitchman. When cruise lines reopened for business, she says that she was so happy that she cried. “We feel like they’re our family,” she says of the friends she’s made on board.

Long Cruising

Bookings for cruises are soaring, topping 2019 by 37% according to travel agency Cruise Planners. A third of travelers were over 60 years old in 2018, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, and many want to spend more than a week or two on the water. Cruise companies are not ignoring this demographic; almost every line is now offering world cruises of 100 nights or more. While most don’t circumnavigate the globe, they do offer a long look at a large chunk of geography and cultures. 

For instance, Holland America sailed to South America this year, spending time on the Amazon River before going through the Panama Canal. The ship then headed for Hawaii and the South Pacific, continuing to Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean before returning home to Fort Lauderdale. Interested in booking something similar? The cost starts at $22,499 per person. (For a more complete listing of world cruises, go here). 

What You Will Pay 

Of course, that number is just the minimum rate. It’s based on double occupancy, per person, and the lower-priced cabins are on the interior and lack windows, much less a balcony. Still, that is doable if you consider all you need to do there is sleep, with expansive decks for lounging and sunning. Most entertainment on board is free.

But the true cost is more. Everyone pays port fees and taxes, which often add up to $100 to $200 per person, per day, for shorter cruises. Tips are optional but expected, and easily add up to about $14 per person, per day. That’s a whopping $200 per week. And although three meals in the main dining room (and plenty of snack options) are included on most cruises, specialty restaurants and alcohol will cost you. Wi-Fi, while it’s usually available, isn’t free, either. (For more about cost, go here). 

Cutting Costs

Of course, savvy cruisers use the best credit cards to earn and redeem points — and they’re often not company-branded cards. You can also stay loyal to one line and book multiple trips to get rewarded with upgrades and discounts. And there’s always the option of choosing a lower-priced line for an off-season trip to cut costs.

“With cruising, you cover all of your living expenses — food, housing, entertainment — in one place,” says Tara Bruce, creative brand manager at Goodwin Investment Advisory.“We’ve seen folks get costs down to $89 per day, which is far cheaper than assisted care or other kinds of senior living.”

Made for Full-Time Living

If money is no concern, you may want to take a look at Storylines’ new ship, the MV Narrative, which is scheduled to launch in 2024. She’ll have 547 furnished apartments with one to four bedrooms each, most with balconies. You can swim in the lap pool, dine at the oyster bar, or use the onboard bowling alley. And Fido can come with you — it’s the first residential ship that will allow pets. 

You can purchase an apartment for $1 million to $8 million or snag a lease for 12 or 24 years that start at $400,000. And then there’s the HOA-style monthly payment, depending on the size of your abode. It covers food, housekeeping, and fuel for the ship … pretty much everything covered in a standard cruise fare. You’ll notice it does not include tips.

If that sounds a bit pricey for your wallet, you’re not alone. Serial cruiser Jeff Farschman, 72, held a plum job as vice president at Lockheed Martin Services before retiring, and he opts to cruise primarily the Holland America line. The cost of his trips varies based on whether he’s splurging on an outside cabin and multiple tours at port or dialing down his spending. However, he estimates that “I probably average $200 to $300 a day including taxes for Grand Voyages and say, $150 to $200 a day for more traditional cruises.” 

Medical Services

It’s nice to know that medical services are available 24/7 while you’re on a cruise ship. Original Medicare will cover you while in port and within six hours of a US port. Certain Medicare supplement plans (but not all) cover emergency care while you’re traveling, including aboard ship. Some Medicare Advantage plans may also cover foreign travel. Be sure to check your plan and buy travel insurance if you need greater coverage. 

So, is cruising for you? Start with a short trip of one or two weeks before committing to a longer voyage. You’ll find out if you merely tolerate the confinement, or if you’re loving the new lifestyle. Many long-term cruisers started booking more trips early on, and gradually realized they no longer needed a big house in the States, or even a car. Others keep their home and spend a month or several on land, often to keep in touch with relatives — their friends are mostly their fellow cruisers. 


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Tech Tools for Home and Garden Design

Many older adults have been forced to nest at home along with everyone else during the pandemic, spawning a wave of home improvement projects. App developers have responded with a variety of do-it-yourself tools.

Whether it’s a Japanese garden in a corner of the backyard or a full kitchen remodel, homeowners are updating their houses and landscapes like never before. It’s not surprising that seniors are a large part of this trend; 76.2% of households aged 50 and up own their own homes, according to a 2018 study. But there is no need to get out a pad of paper and a pencil to sketch out your design when there is a plethora of apps, many of them free, to help consumers visualize results.

Using these apps is largely intuitive, so seniors without a ton of computer savvy can still master them. It’s a huge help (and lots of fun!) to get started with the online tutorials to learn how to find your way around before digging into your project. It is addictive: some of these apps are the same ones professionals use, and your results will be startlingly realistic. It’s possible to create a file for different projects/rooms. You may find yourself playing with them even if you have no intention of an actual makeover, just to flex your interior designer muscles. Let’s look at some of the best tools, split into apps for inside your home and those for outdoor areas.

Home Layout and Design

  • Houzz can help you choose a new rug or redo every room in your home from ceiling to floor. It has a huge selection of furnishings, accessories, and lighting, as well as a photo gallery for inspiration. Even better, you can share your ideas with the Houzz community to get feedback and suggestions and even find a design professional on the site. Use Houzz for your outside areas too by uploading plant photos into your space.
  • Roomstyler 3D Home Planner has an extensive library of tutorials, but it is so easy to use you may not need them. Create a roomful of furnishings in just minutes using actual products from real brands - if you decide you want to purchase one or an entire room’s worth, it’s simple.
  • HomeByMe is completely free. You start by setting up your floorplan in 2D, then switch to 3D to add furnishings, which are actual pieces available from a variety of retailers. 
  • SmartDraw is a robust planning tool that allows users to investigate an endless variety of building materials and furnishings in thousands of possible templates and floor plan examples. It’s only free for seven days, so use that time wisely to decide if it’s worth it to ante up the $9.95 monthly fee.
  • Floorplanner offers a free demo of their design and decorating app. Like many other tools, you’ll start in 3D for the floorplan and switch to 3D for interior design. It’s simple to use for people who want to avoid a steep learning curve.
  • SketchUp is so much fun, you really should try it out. There is a free version for hobbyists that is so immersive you’ll feel like you are moving through your new home. Because SketchUp is 3D modeling software, artistic types can use it to create plants, patios, and water features in an outdoor environment.

Nearly every retailer of furniture and/or appliances provides a free design app for customers, including Home Depot, Lowes, and Ikea. These work well if you will be buying all of your products from the same store. 

Garden Layout and Design

  • Garden Planner is affiliated with The Old Farmer’s Almanac, and it not only creates a square-foot vegetable/flower garden plan but gives planting and harvesting dates for every plant. 
  • Home Design 3D Outdoor and Garden creates realistic 3D designs of your outdoor spaces including patios, sheds, and gardens. It enables you to introduce products and design elements, and you can share them with friends. There is a limited free version, while a paid variation costing $6.99 to $19.99 offers upgrades and the ability to import and export projects.
  • Home Outside allows you to create professional-looking CAD-type designs with tap-and-drag technology. The cost is $2.99, and if you want to improve your skills, the company will send landscape and garden design sessions for $99 each.
  • iScape works with Apple products, including the iPad, to create visually realistic designs that you can share with others. It’s easy to use, and free for hobby users. It’s the number one app for landscape design.
  • Planter is unique in that it helps you optimize growing conditions for the plants you choose to include in your design. Want to know about frost zones, spacing, or the best companion plants? Planter has you covered. Its best use is for vegetable gardeners, and it is free to download.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Wrinkle Cream - Does It Work?

Inevitably, wrinkles emerge as we age. Is there any cream that really works to smooth them, or is it all just money down the drain? 

Maybe there will come a day when we can embrace our wrinkles, knowing that every line is a mark of wisdom. But in the meantime, most of us are still fighting each new sign of aging, and that certainly includes the lines on our face. Some of those creams, lotions, and serums can cost a boatload of money. Are the most expensive ones the best? Senior Spirit checked out the most recent information, and what skin-care experts use on their own lines. 

Ingredients that Work From Within
The good news: experts agree that there are some products that will help reduce the appearance of facial lines over time. Retinols and stronger retinoids are similar compounds made from vitamin A. Retinols are generally found in over-the counter creams, while retinoids require a prescription. Both are capable of increasing cell turnover, increasing collagen, and stimulating the body’s production of hyaluronic acid, which keeps skin hydrated. 

Words to Look For

  • Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, which are harmful molecules that can damage skin.
  • Hypoallergenic products are less likely to cause an allergic reaction.
  • Noncomedogenic products are less likely to block pores or cause bumpiness or breakouts, which can still happen in older skin.
  • Broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both UVA and stronger UVB rays.

When Creams Aren't Enough

If you want to investigate options that move beyond wrinkle creams, you have your choice. Most involve consultation with a dermatologist to evaluate your own unique circumstances and budget before selecting a course of treatment.

  • Dermabrasion scrapes off layers of skin to reduce wrinkles and depressions.
  • Chemical peels dissolve the upper layer(s) of skin to create a smoother result.
  • Laser skin resurfacing directs short, concentrated pulses of light to remove skin very precisely in order to stimulate new collagen and improve smoothness.

Stopping Movement
  • Botox injections prevent muscles from contracting, which temporarily eases frown lines between brows and at the outer corners of the eyes.

  • Hyaluronic acid is the most common filler used to lift up skin around the mouth, nose and chin. Most fillers provide a temporary fix of several months.

  • Facelifts come in a variety of iterations that may involve a single area, such as the brows, or the entire face and underlying musculature. Effects usually last for up to 10 years.

The science on how well they work is broad and convincing. “Every dermatologist I know, myself included, uses these as part of their skincare regimen,” says Zakia Rahman, clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford University.

Both retinols and retinoids can cause skin irritation, so start with a lower concentration such as 0.25 and work up gradually. Both products are also capable of making sunburns worse and they do not work as well when exposed to sunlight, so apply them at night. They should never be used by anyone who may be pregnant. 

Vitamin C may also inhibit and/or repair minor wrinkles. “It’s a potent antioxidant,” says Dr. Rahman, and it can enhance collagen production. However, if you’re choosing between vitamin C and a retinol or retinoid, go with the latter, since study after study supports their effectiveness.

Plumping Up
Moisturizing creams containing hyaluronic acid can make your skin look better temporarily, by attracting water into the skin. But using such a cream won’t change how much hyaluronic acid your body produces or work on a molecular level like retinoids and vitamin C. 

You can’t tell how effective a product is by feel or thickness, according to the experts. But dermatologists do suggest you use a moisturizer daily since it will keep skin hydrated. Dry skin “loses support and develops a sunken appearance,” according to Northeast Dermatology Associates in the Northeast US. They contend that any moisturizer is better than nothing. 

Quit Smoking
Research has found that smoking can accelerate the formation of wrinkles. Perhaps it’s due to the reduction in blood supply to the skin caused by smoking. Whatever the reason, you can begin reversing the process by quitting smoking. 

Sunscreen: Just Do It
Sun exposure ages skin prematurely. Skin exposed to the sun will develop discoloration, fine lines, wrinkles, and a leathery appearance as elastin, collagen, and skin cells are damaged over time. The damage occurs down deep, so it takes years to become visible.  

“I see many patients who have a lot of sun damage,” says Kathleen Suozzi, MD, and director of aesthetics at Yale Medicine Dermatology. “They feel like their skin aged them, that they appear older than some of their peers, and they’re regretful of not being better with sun protection in their youth.” 

We can’t go back in time, but it’s critical to use sunscreen daily now that we know better. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It’s also smart to wear protective clothing and a hat with a wide brim. 

Which SPF to Use
Many older adults wonder if the higher the SPF factor, the better the sunscreen. It’s a bit complicated, but Steven Q. Wang, director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explains. 

“The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin when using the product exactly as directed versus the amount of time without any sunscreen. So ideally, with SPF 30 it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you were not wearing sunscreen. An SPF 30 allows about 3 percent of UVB rays to hit your skin. An SPF of 50 allows about 2 percent of those rays through,” Dr, Wang says. “That may seem like a small difference until you realize that the SPF 30 is allowing 50 percent more UV radiation onto your skin.”

Theoretically, it’s better to use the product with a higher SPF. But what often happens is that it creates a false sense of security and users will stay out in the sun longer and not reapply the sunscreen. “They end up getting a lot more UV damage, which, of course, defeats the purpose,” according to Dr. Wang.

All in all, experts agree that wrinkles can be kept to a minimum by using a retinoid at night and a moisturizer, perhaps one containing vitamin C, during the day. This should be covered with broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen whenever you are going outside. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 1 - Gloria Estefan, singer

Born in Cuba, Gloria Estefan has been credited with opening doors for Latin musicians after being named one of Billboard’s Top 100 greatest artists of all time. She is also a seven-time Grammy Award winner, Medal of Freedom recipient, and savvy businesswoman. 

Estefan burst onto the music scene with the release of “Conga” in 1985. She was the lead singer for Miami Sound Machine, a band that also gave her her husband Emilio Estefan. The couple has been married since 1978 and is currently worth a cool half a billion from ownership of Florida hotels and restaurants. 

Her future wasn’t at all sure after a truck hit her tour bus in March 1990, fracturing a vertebra in her back. It took an emergency surgery and 10 months of excruciating physical therapy to recover, after which Estefan released the album Into the Light

Estefan has inspired a musical, On Your Feet, and appeared in film and television. A mother of two, she authored a children’s book, Noelle’s Treasure Tale, that was No. 3 on the New York Times Bestseller list for children’s books in 2006. She is set to release a new Christmas album for 2022 with her husband. The pair supports a wide variety of philanthropic causes.


Image Source: Wikipedia

September 2 - Tony Alva, skateboarder

Winner of the USSA World Invitational Skateboard Championship in 1975, Tony Alva was one of the first to invent vertical skateboarding. He was also an original member of the Zephyr Competition Skateboarding Team (Z-Boys), who all surfed and transported a new, aggressive style from the ocean to the street. They pioneered the dangerous new trend of using empty concrete swimming pools to launch aerial moves. Alva was one of the first to complete a Frontside Air trick, launching the era of modern skateboarding.

You may have seen the 2005 film Lords of Dogtown, based on a 2001 documentary of California skate culture where Alva was featured. Alva has also maintained a long promotional relationship with Vans shoes, and he opened his own skateboard company, Alva Skates, at the tender age of 19. 

Alva has also enjoyed a musical career and most recently played with the LA rock band His Eyes Have Fangs. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

September 13 - Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, president of the Philippines

You might have thought that Filipinos would have had enough of the Marcos family after the People Power Revolution ousted former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and first lady Imelda Marcos from power back in 1986, after which they fled to Hawaii. The pair was notorious for civil rights abuses and shady financial dealings. 

Their son, Bongbong, is a chip off the old block. He won the presidency by a landslide in 2022, despite heavy criticism from fact-checkers and disinformation scholars for “revising” history and smearing rivals. He and his mother (his father died in 1989) were fined $353.6 million by the Hawaii District Court in 2011 for dissipating assets from Ferdinand Senior’s estate in violation of an injunction in a 1992 judgment in a Human Rights Victims case. 

And although it would seem that this judgment, the largest contempt award ever affirmed by an appellate court, would bar Bongbong and Imelda from entering any US territory, it seems that as head of state, Bongbong Marcos enjoys diplomatic immunity and is welcome to visit the US in his official role. 

Ethan (left) and Joel Coen, Image Source: Wikipedia

September 21 - Ethan Coen, filmmaker

Along with older brother Josh, Ethan Coen is arguably one of the greatest directors and producers of all time. Known collectively as the Coen brothers, the duo has been nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning best screenplay for Fargo and Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay for No Country for Old Men.

Growing up in Minneapolis, the brothers were introduced to Italian films that aired on a local station, the Tarzan films, and comedians such as Doris Day, Jerry Lewis, and Bob Hope. They began remaking films they’d seen, using a camera Joel bought from money cutting lawns and featuring their friend Mark Zimering “Zeimers”. In one instance, Lassie Come Home became Ed … A Dog, with Ethan donning his sister’s tutu to play the role of the mother. 

Prolific writers, directors, and producers, the brothers were forced to name only one (Joel) as director and one (Ethan) as producer in spite of collaborating on both until 2004. Why? Guild rules prohibited multiple director credits unless the co-directors are an “established” duo.” You might also assume that the brothers live near each other, but they are on opposite coasts. Ethan and his family reside in New York, while Josh and his family live in California.

Some of their most famous projects include Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors