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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Should You Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

Is long-term care insurance a good investment, or is it better to self-insure? How about a little of both?

More than half of Americans who make it to 65 are going to need long-term care at some point. Medicare will not cover the bill. Medicaid requires that the older adult meet strict financial guidelines, and the program will not pay to put you up in the Taj Mahal of nursing homes. But with an average insurance cost per couple of about $6,000 per year and the risk of premium hikes in the future, does it make sense to buy long-term care insurance (LTCI)?

Trade-Offs of LTCI vs. Self-Insuring

Consider that you may be paying premiums for decades for a policy you may never need. And if you do use your insurance, you may only need it for a short time: potentially not enough to offset all those dollars you’ve been paying into it. Your policy will usually only offer a certain amount of benefits limited by time and dollars, and most have a waiting period (often 90 days) before they go into effect. Would you be better off investing the dollars you would otherwise spend on premiums to help cover a possible stay?

Will You Qualify for Long-Term Care Insurance?

You may not qualify for LTCI if you have certain pre-existing conditions, such as certain cancers or if you already need help with one or more activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing. Premiums rise the older a person is, so if you wait too long the insurance may be unaffordable, but if you buy it early, you will be paying more overall in premiums, which can rise over time. However, buying a policy with your spouse may be cheaper than two separate policies.

The decision comes down to what enables you to sleep well at night, according to Certified Financial Planner Roxanne Alexander. Some clients are able to self-insure; they have enough saved up that they can afford to pay for the cost of a prolonged stay if needed. Mind you, that may run about $8,000 per month, depending on which state you live in. Others want the peace of mind that comes from knowing an insurance company will shoulder a portion of the cost. After all, you have home insurance that you will probably never need, but you wouldn’t dream of dropping it. 

Many folks choose to combine a long-term care policy with savings to cover any future needs. In other words, they buy a policy they know won’t cover 100 percent of the cost for as long as they may need care, but it covers enough that they can manage the rest of the outlay when the time comes. 

LTCI Policies

Historically, the performance of LTCI policies sold in the 90s was less than stellar and they got a bad name. About half of the policies were never used because their owners couldn’t afford, or forgot to continue, making payments. Benefits didn’t get paid out to those who paid only for nursing home care, but instead wound up receiving in-home care or moved to a residence that wasn’t covered by their policy. And it still can be true that by the time LTCI benefits are paid out, they often make up only a portion of costs due to inflation.

Consumer groups urged changes in terms and conditions after the 90s that make LTCI a better investment today. For instance, a lot of policies will now cover stays in residence homes or at-home care as long as the policy holder is unable to perform a certain number of activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and toileting. Policies may also permit the holder to reduce levels of coverage in return for lowered payments. 

Here are some areas to consider when comparing policies:
  • Does the policy cover not only nursing homes, but also assisted living facilities and at-home care?
  • Does it have any inflation protection?
  • Can the company increase the cost of the policy at will?
  • What is the length of coverage? Does it go for one year, two, three? 
  • Can you stop and restart it if needed?
  • How are benefits triggered? 
  • What is the elimination (waiting) period before benefits kick in?

Additionally, there are some other reasons long-term care insurance may be right for you. If you own a tax-qualified plan and itemize deductions, premiums may be deductible in part or in whole. This is especially important for business owners. There are also benefits if you would otherwise need to spend down your assets to qualify for Medicaid. Further, you won’t be a burden on your heirs in future years. 

Hybrid Long-Term Care Policies

It’s possible to get a policy that combines whole (permanent) life insurance with LTCI. Any monies needed for long-term care come out of your death benefit, or payout to loved ones upon your passing. But these policies are typically quite expensive, and if you don’t need life insurance, you probably don’t need a hybrid policy. 

There is definitely a place for a long-term care policy in many portfolios. The peace of mind afforded by knowing a good chunk of care will be paid for is essential to many retirees. Just make sure to look at a few different policies and take time to go over the provisions in each at your leisure before making a decision. You want to get the terms and conditions you need at a price that is among the lowest in the industry. And since you likely won’t be using the policy for a while, make sure the company whose policy you buy will be around for a long time to come. 

Monday, November 13, 2023

15 Great Gifts for Seniors

The holidays are almost here, and we’ve got super ideas for what to give the older adults in your family (and maybe treat yourself too!).

It’s always tough to come up with a unique gift for the older adults in your life, so we’ve made it easy by providing this list of unique items at a variety of price points. We tried to pick some of the best brands for you. You can hunt down less expensive options if you prefer.  Let your fingers do the walking online, and you’ll have your holiday shopping done in no time. Ho ho ho! 

Personalized Gifts for Seniors

If you’re still at a loss for just the right present, consider getting something that’s printed with people and/or places that are dear to your loved one. You can order a book of photos that you provide to Shutterfly that comes with free designer services. Cost depends on your choice of cover, binding, size, and style. This also makes a nice gift for grandchildren; you can memorialize a vacation or time at Grandpa and/or Grandma’s house.

Blankets and pillows covered in treasured photos are available at Snapfish. It can be fun to include some throwback pictures from a wedding album or high school reunion along with more recent events. 

  1. Clip-on Speaker. For quality sound that is super portable, try this nifty little speaker that delivers plenty of power. Easily attaches to a wheelchair, light fixture, backpack, or bicycle … just about anywhere! Waterproof, dustproof, with 10 hours of playtime. JBL Clip 4. About $80.
  2. Heated Lotion Dispenser. The cold is upon us, and gifts that warm us up are mighty welcome. Spread warm lotion over dry skin for a little affordable luxury that will make you think of sunny days. Heated Lotion Dispenser. About $50.
  3. Foldable Neck Fan. It’s cold now, but summers are getting hotter and there’s nothing like this powerful, lightweight neck fan to cool you down. Wear it traveling, in the kitchen, at sports events or anywhere you need a blast of cool. Lasts up to 6,000 hours. Desert West Neck Fan. About $119.
  4. Air Ionizer. Designed for large rooms, this unit will clear the air of mold, odors, smoke, allergens, and germs. Its HEPA filter will even get rid of dust and pet hair. For other quality models check out this review. Fellowes AeraMax 300. About $360.
  5. Motion-Activated Stick-On Lights. These individual lights can go anywhere you need more illumination. Put some in your closets or under kitchen cabinets, in a dark hallway or on your bed frame. AMIR Motion Sensor Lights. A pack of three about $10.
  6. Milk Frother. To make any hot or cold drink taste like it came from a coffee shop, get this lightweight milk frother. It works with dairy or plant milks, whipping them up in less than a minute. The frother also comes in a wide variety of colors and has a lifetime guarantee. Zulay Handheld Milk Frother. About $20.
  7. Electric Jar Opener. Pickle jars and other hard-to-open jars are no match for this electric opener that quickly works on almost any size jar. All you need to do is press a button and the machine does the rest. Instacan Jar Opener. About $18.
  8. Packing Cube Set. Anyone who travels will love this set of four cubes to organize suitcase packing – or even your drawers at home. Made of water-resistant nylon in a variety of colors. Quit rummaging through your suitcase to find what you need and spend more time enjoying your trip. Paravel Packing Cube Quad. About $65.
  9. Aromatherapy Dispenser and Oils. Soothing and refreshing, this ultrasonic wood-look diffuser will make any room in your home a haven. Imagine drifting off to sleep with one of ten included plant essential oils scenting your room. Or use it to get rid of kitchen or pet odors. Pure Daily Care Oil Diffuser and Oils Set. About $40.
  10. Temperature-Controlled Mug. Your coffee or tea is never going to get cold again. This mug will keep up to 14 oz. at the desired temperature between 120 and 145 degrees. Hand washable. Ember Two-Temperature Mug. About $100.  
  11. Heated Socks. Who wouldn’t want a pair of heated cotton socks? Okay, maybe not you down there in Florida, but anyone in a snowy state would love these battery-heated black socks for women and men. Use them inside or out. Tomshine Electric Heated Socks. About $15.
  12. LED Neck Reading Light. Bring light for reading or knitting wherever you need it with this portable light you hang on your neck. It features six levels of brightness and bendable arms. Glocusent Neck Light. About $22.
  13. Fleece Wrap With Big Pockets. This cozy wrap is easy on, easy off for seniors with achy joints. And the biggest benefit? The washable wrap features two large pockets that are big enough to carry a phone, reading glasses, tissues … things that you can never find when you need them! Collections Etc Wrap. About $21
  14. Weighted Blanket. Proven through research to alleviate stress and anxiety, weighted blankets are particularly good gifts for people with dementia – although you may find yourself ordering one for your own bed! Made of breathable cotton with glass beads.  Sivio Weighted Blanket. About $66. 
  15. Wheelchair Blanket. Made of washable polyester fleece in two color choices, this heavyweight blanket attaches to the wheelchair so it won’t slip off. Granny Jo Wheelchair Blanket. About $35.


Blog posting provided by the Society of Certified Senior Advisors

Sunday, November 12, 2023

What Is “Old Age” Today?

The age at which someone is considered “old” is being pushed back – and for good reason.

Adults in modern times are pushing back on when they are considered old. Social security mortality tables are a good indicator of these changes. Research done by John Shoven, an economics professor at Stanford University, indicates that a person with a 2 percent or more chance of dying in the next year might be dubbed “old”.  Back in the 1920s men reached this age at 55. Today, that age has moved back to 70. For women, that age was the late fifties in 1920 and 73 today. 

Maintaining Quality of Life as We Age

Many of those gains can be attributed to modern conveniences that most of us have access to, like waste removal, vaccines, clean water, refrigerators, and improvements in health care. We now know how important things like diet, exercise, and sleep are for quality of life in old age. 

Quotes for the New “Old Age”

In the vein of changing mindsets with a little humor and insight, here are a few sayings that may remind us all to embrace our older selves!
  • “To keep the heart unwrinkled — to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent — that is to triumph over old age.” – Thomas Bailey Aldrich
  • “Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.” – Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
  • “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” – David Bowie
  • “The spirit never ages. It stays forever young.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

We’ve even dialed it down to the superiority of stimulating fast-twitch muscles through high intensity exercise versus spending long amounts of time building endurance. Why? According to Paul Holbrook, founder of Age Performance gyms that are specifically aimed at older adults, surges of more intense activity not only offer heart and lung improvement but also stimulate muscle fibers that we use to balance and keep strong. Yep, the same muscles that prevent us from falling or help us catch ourselves if we do stumble. 

Advances on the horizon should one day soon enable us to turn back the clock on some aging processes that happen in our bodies. One example is stem cell exhaustion, when stem cells lose their ability to divide. Some studies have shown that rejuvenating these cells could mitigate some of the tissue degeneration that occurs as we get older. 

Maintaining or finding a purpose in life has also been shown to correlate with quicker walking speeds and improved hand grip versus those who express a lack of purpose. Good mental health is now recognized as a factor that can increase life expectancy and quality. 


In fact, the pursuit of this sense of purpose has stimulated researchers to identify a new stage of life called gerentolescence. It’s defined as occurring from age 50 to 75, when many of us have a second adolescence as we embark on self-discovery and re-identification. Some may find new careers, a passion for volunteering or immersion in new hobbies. 

“The later stage of your life can be just as rewarding, even more so, than the previous parts,” says John Irving, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. It is a time for new possibilities on a variety of fronts, whether you’re devoting more time to grandchildren and the garden or jetting off to foreign countries. 

“Breaking the Age Code” author Becca Levy, a Yale University Medical School professor and expert on the psychology of aging, is an advocate of using your mindset around aging to add quality years to your life – a little more than seven years, in fact. With ageism running rampant (how many commercials do we see every day for products promising to make us more youthful?), she draws on her own research to show how using the powers of the mind alone can enhance our experience of getting older. 

“Aging is a common denominator across the world,” says Dr. Pol Vandenbrouke, head of Medical Strategy at Pfizer. “While there are still many uncertainties on the aging horizon, we can take steps now to make sure old age won’t just mean living long, but living well.”

Thursday, November 9, 2023

In the Future, Will You Get a 3D-Printed Organ?

Researchers are coming closer to making printed kidneys, hearts and more in the lab. Skin, bones, muscle structures, blood vessels and more have already been 3D printed — but they’re not approved for use in people quite yet. 

Every day, seventeen Americans die waiting for an organ donation, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration. More than 9 out of 10 people on the transplant list need a functioning kidney. For those lucky few who do get an organ, there are still issues like organ rejection to overcome and the need to take potentially harmful immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their life. 

3D Printers Make Organs

To surmount these obstacles, scientists have been working to make hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs and even brains out of a patient’s own tissue, combined with polymers, using 3D printers. It will take at least another decade of work to create organs that function like the real thing, according to Jennifer Lewis, a professor at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. 

3D Ear Attached to Patient Born Without One

In 2022, a woman born without an ear on her right side got one implanted that matched her left ear. This surgery is fairly routine, except that this was the first time the implanted ear was made with the patient’s own live skin and cells using a 3D printer. The procedure was quite remarkably “very uneventful,” according to surgeon Arturo Bonilla.

From the stuff of fantasy to a wishful idea and now a burgeoning field, 3D organ implantation is becoming a reality. “I think that in 10 years we will have organs for transplantation,” says professor Tal Dvir, director of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “We will start with simple organs like skin and cartilage, but then we’ll move on to more complicated tissues—eventually the heart, liver, kidney.” 

“About a million people worldwide are in need of a kidney,” says Lewis. “So they have end-stage renal failure, and they have to go on dialysis. Once you go on dialysis, you have essentially five years to live, and every year, your mortality rate increases by 15 percent. Dialysis is very hard on your body. So this is really motivating to take on this grand challenge of printing organs.”

The technology itself is improving. “The ability to place different cell types in precise locations to build up a complex tissue, and the capability of integrating blood vessels that can deliver the necessary oxygen and nutrients to keep cells alive, are two (3D) techniques that are revolutionizing tissue engineering,” says Mark Skylar-Scott, an assistant professor in the Stanford University department of bioengineering. “The field has moved very quickly over the past two decades, from printed bladders to now highly cellular tissues with vessels that can be connected to a pump—and complex 3D models that resemble heart components with integrated heart cells.”

Making a 3D Organ

To make an organ, a small (less than a postage stamp) amount of cells are collected that are told to become specific types of cells. They are mixed with polymers or alginate to make bioinks, which are placed in nozzles and squeezed out, layer by layer, in the 3D bioprinting process. It can take several hours to make an organ. 

The organ may then be flushed with oxygen and nutrients, such as blood provides in the body. The tissue will eventually mature and hopefully begin to function. 

Scientists are already developing working models, although not in humans. A mobile skin bioprinting system is in development that could be wheeled through a hospital, measuring non-healing burns and wounds and then printing skin directly on to the site. At least one lab has printed a tiny, rabbit-size heart that had blood vessels and a heartbeat, while lungs and a pancreas have achieved success inside animal models. 

Seniors Have Special Needs

Older Americans could also benefit greatly from 3D-printed body parts. Eyes with macular degeneration could be replaced, or cancerous skin. Failing old hearts could be replaced with healthy newer ones, and there is even reason to think that injured muscle could be rejuvenated. The destruction caused by degenerative nerve, heart and bone conditions, such as osteoporosis, could be repaired. 

3D Organs Are Cost Effective
But wait, what about the cost of these organs? There’s good news on this front as well. 

The new organs will be “accessible for sure,” says Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “The costs associated with organ failures are very high. Just to keep a patient on dialysis is over a quarter of a million dollars per year, just to keep one patient on dialysis. So, it’s a lot cheaper to create an organ that you can implant into the patient.”

An average kidney transplant surgery was $442,500 in 2020, according to data published by the American Society of Nephrology. Much of that goes toward harvesting the organ and transferring it to where the surgery is to be performed. Conversely, a high-end 3D printer may cost $10,000. Of course, surgery would still have to be done and the patient followed up, but costs would likely lower considerably, even before the need for years of dialysis was eliminated. 

The availability of 3D-printed organs is not just around the corner, but it’s on its way. While researchers are still solving the problem of making safe, reliable, functioning organs on a consistent basis, the framework of how to do it has already been developed. The technology for 3D-printed organs is not here, but it’s getting closer every day.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

How to Talk to Our Adult Kids

When your children become adults, it’s time to treat them as such. But old habits die hard.

We do it with the best of intentions. But pointing out imperfections and giving unsolicited advice to our kids after they’re grown just undermines their self-confidence. Do we have to learn how to bite our tongue so hard it splits in half? Well, maybe! Waiting to make a comment until you’ve really thought: 1) whether you should say anything at all, or 2) exactly how to frame your response, is a wonderful tool. 

Active Listening

Working on our listening skills is a great way to improve our relationships with our children. No matter whether you think they listen to you, get better with how you listen to them.
  • Stay non-judgmental, even when they are criticizing something you said or did. 
  • Don’t fill in every silence. Give them space to think and talk, even when it hurts.
  • Show them that you’re listening closely. Lean toward them, make eye contact, nod, etc. 
  • Ask questions.
  • Provide a summary to show you were following everything they said. “If I heard you right, you’re angry that I didn’t text you when we were making plans for dinner and you want to be included on all texts like that from now on.” Notice that this is not the time to defend yourself or pass judgment. You’re just repeating what you heard them say.
  • Ask if there’s anything else they want you to know. (Don’t be sarcastic. You’ll be better off if you hear them out.)
  • While not a part of active listening, you may be reeling from what they said. Answer truthfully. A good response might be: “I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware that’s how I was making you feel. I want a good relationship with you and I’ll work to make it better.” Notice how it is not defensive, but it is authentic.

Connecting With Adult Children

Our kids are not little sponges anymore, awaiting Mom or Dad’s pronouncements to absorb values or save them from life’s hard lessons. But they still very much want our approval. Cut the judgment calls and be positive, handing out approval at every opportunity. 

When they reject your advice, smile and tell them you’re sure they’ll do fine. Maybe they’ll fall on their face, but they will remember Mom and Dad expressed confidence in their ability. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll recall a time or two when the same thing happened to you. 

Don’t stop trying. Keep reaching out to make connections. Ask the kids questions about their work, their weekends, their children, and pets. Ask them advice for something you’re trying to decide. What books are they reading? Keep making memories with them, even if you’re physically far apart.

Finally, here is a list of little reminders for parents about what annoys the heck out of our kids:
  1. Calling their significant other or spouse to locate them.
  2. Trying to locate them at all. They will get back to you in their own sweet time.
  3. Personal questions like: How’s your diet going? Are you hung over? Did you get my gift?
  4. Voicemails. Your kids want to glance at a text, not have to open a voicemail. 
  5. Emails. Ditto. Too much information, parents!
  6. Nagging. Not okay: Have you talked to your grandparents? Are you eating healthy meals? 
  7. Too much interest in the new significant other. Okay: Your new boyfriend sounds great! Not okay: Is he treating you well? How much does he make? 
  8. Guilting. Never send a group text about who has/has not done what for the family get-together – or anything else. Reminders should be private.
  9. Multiple texts. They got the first one. If it’s not an emergency, they’re just more into their friends and you need to chill. 
  10. Complaints. Why don’t you call/text me more often? Let’s face it, their friends are more interesting than Mom and Dad. If we’re a bit lonely, we can always play more pickleball …

Emphasizing good qualities and giving positive messages holds value whether your children are eight, eighteen or eighty. Find things to compliment and treat them like the adults they are. By giving them a little space and a lot of encouragement, you may find they actually want your advice once in a while, and family dinners will sure be a lot more rewarding!

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Jim Steinmeyer (left); Image Source: Wikipedia

November 1  Jim Steinmeyer, inventor and designer of magical illusions 

Did you think the big Vegas acts (David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy) and the many, many other talented and well known magicians on stage and television developed all of their own material? Alas, no, dear reader. Like you and me, they pay someone else for the goods from time to time. And that someone is often Jim Steinmeyer. 

Steinmeyer is also the bomb at theatrical special effects. He was behind illusions for Disney stage productions of “Mary Poppins”, “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast”. He holds four US patents for his illusions, and also worked with Doug Henning and Lance Burton. If you want to know more about the history of magic, you can check out bestseller “Hiding the Elephant”, written by none other than Steinmeyer himself. If you prefer the internet, look up his 1998 TED talk on YouTube. 

Have you ever seen the origami illusion? This illusion has been performed by Henning and Copperfield, and imitated any number of times. The magician’s assistant steps into an origami box lying on a thin table that is backed by a mirror. The box appears to fold up into a one-foot square, which is pierced by three swords. It is then unfolded, to reveal the unharmed assistant. The creator? Steinmeyer, of course. Other tricks he invented include Interlude, Modern Art, Osmosis, and the Lady in the Puzzle. A prolific writer, he has penned more than ten books on illusionists and illusions. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 19  Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter

Remember the old saw, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? That’s exactly what native New Yorker and celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kaufman did, many times over. The writer of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Being John Malkovich“ got rejected repeatedly, and was reduced to handling calls about missing newspapers during the late 1980s to put food on his family’s table. 

Roger Ebert, the famous film critic, once dubbed Kaufman’s 2009 film “Synecdoche, New York“ “the best movie of the decade.” Three of the writer’s film scripts are listed on the Writer’s Guild of America choices for the top 101 screenplays ever written. Not bad for a shy kid who had a hard time speaking up. Other gems written by him include “Adaptation », « Anomalisa », and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”. Kaufman recently released his first novel, “Antkind”.

In spite of holding a degree from New York University, Kaufman struggled to get work for years, submitting scripts for a host of TV shows before finally getting hired for a Comedy Central series called “Across America”. When that fizzled out, he wrote two episodes for “Get A Life” before the show was given the axe. Kaufman finally won some notoriety in the 90s when Spike Jonze agreed to direct “Being John Malkovich”. The film won an Academy Award and a BAFTA, and Kaufman had his foot in the door.

His themes explore universal subjects: mortality, identity crisis and the meaning of life. If you haven’t already seen his work, it’s time to check out “Anomalisa” on Netflix.

Image Source: Wikipedia

November 22  Jamie Lee Curtis, actor

Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis is actually a talented actor who has nailed a wide range of roles, but she may be best known for her performances in horror, including the character of Laurie Strode in 1978’s “Halloween” and six of the movie’s sequels. The daughter of Janet Leigh, she was originally given the role because of her mother’s notoriety playing the woman in the iconic shower scene of the Hitchcock suspense film “Psycho”.

Curtis went on to roles in “The Fog”, “Prom Night”, “Terror Train” and “Roadgames”. But if you were never into scary movies, you might have seen the actor in “Trading Places” or “A Fish Called Wanda” and thought she was great at drama or comedy. It’s even possible you don’t know Curtis as an actor at all, but as the author of a slew of children’s books aimed primarily at the preschool set. 

The whip-smart Curtis (she was in law school when she decided to drop out and begin acting) didn’t always receive accolades for her performances, but several of her films, including “Perfect” with John Travolta, have generated a cult following over the years. In fact, no less a legend than Quentin Tarantino said the movie was “greatly underappreciated.” 

Curtis appeared with an enviable share of leading men such as Mel Gibson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has also worked with some amazing leading ladies, like Bette Davis. Sigourney Weaver is a close friend, but Curtis admits she’s never watched her complete performance in Aliens because she is “too scared” by the film. She is married to British-American filmmaker Christopher Guest.

In 2021, the actor was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Venice Film Festival and remarked, “I feel so alive, like I'm this 14-year-old person just beginning their life. That's how I wake up every day with that sort of joy and purpose. I'm just beginning my work.”


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors