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While many retired senior citizens slip into a sedentary lifestyle after retirement, they may not realize that spending too much time sitting can increase their dementia risk.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, anything which improves your cardiovascular health is also good for your brain.  Second, when your muscles become weaker, you are at a greater risk for falls, which can lead to broken bones and head injuries.  Exercise, along with other lifestyle changes, is an important part of your plan to reduce your dementia risk.

Aerobic Exercise and Dementia

It has long been known that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, is good for your heart.  More recently, researchers have discovered that anything which improves your cardiovascular health will also improve your cognitive health.  In addition, anything which improves your cardiovascular health will also reduce your risk of having a stroke, which can cause serious brain damage.

According to a research study reported by the Mayo Clinic, people who had already been diagnosed with mild dementia or cognitive impairment improved their cognitive scores after six to twelve months of regular exercise, when they were compared to a control group of sedentary individuals with similar original scores.  This research shows you can improve your memory and cognitive function, even if you have already been diagnosed with mild memory loss, simply by consistently engaging in aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, running, dancing or swimming.

Exercise and Fall Prevention

Fall prevention is another reason why people should exercise regularly as they age.  According to the Centers for Disease Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury and death in seniors.  Falls can lead to broken hips and other bones, which may cause you to become bedridden and potentially develop pneumonia.  Falls can also cause head injuries which could damage the brain.  Exercises which help improve your sense of balance and build strength, such as lifting weights or tai chi, will help reduce your risk of falling.

Other Exercises Which are Good for Your Brain

In a brain health class I am taking through a local college, we learned there are other types of physical exercise which can also benefit the brain and improve our balance.  Below are some of the activities which they suggest:

*  Practice different movements when you take a walk such as walking sideways, walking with your feet further apart than normal, trying to place your feet in front of each other in a straight line, walking on your toes or heels, and similar movements.  These movements help strengthen your ankles and legs while teaching your muscles how to respond to unexpected situations when you walk.

*  Practice walking and talking with someone.  Not only does this make your walks more fun, but the ability to walk smoothly while distracted by a conversation is very helpful.

*  Practice bouncing a rubber ball and tossing it to another person.  As we age, we can lose our spatial awareness.  We may find we toss a ball too hard or too softly.  Being able to throw a ball the proper distance to another person, and then being able to catch a ball tossed to us, are both important cognitive skills.  Maintaining this skill will also make us better while engaging in a variety of activities, including driving.

Reduce Stress with Yoga or Breathing Exercises

Another type of exercise which can benefit our brains are stress reducing exercises such as yoga or breathing exercises.  Learning to naturally relax and reduce our stress can make it easier for your brain to store new memories and recall old ones.

In addition to reducing stress, the practice of yoga can also improve your sense of balance, your flexibility and your strength.

As you can see, everyone should incorporate a variety of types of exercises into their weekly schedule, including aerobic exercise, lifting weights, bouncing a ball and yoga. The combination can go a long way towards improving your brain health.

If you are interested in learning more ways to reduce your dementia risk, you should check out the other articles on this blog in the Medical Concerns section and learn more about the MIND diet and other ways to improve your brain health.

If you are interested in learning more about maintaining good health as you age, retirement planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is scheduled to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Has your doctor told you to lose weight?  If you are like many senior citizens, it may seem as if losing weight is an impossible task.  After all, if you are overweight and over the age of 50, you have probably been trying to control it for years.  In addition, you may find it more difficult than ever to get the exercise you need, especially if you have health problems. What can you try now which would be different from anything you have been trying for decades?  You may want to give the new Weight Watchers Freestyle program a close look.

Weight Watchers has repeatedly been found to be one of the most successful commercial weight loss programs.  One of the benefits is that you do not need to purchase special food or live on liquid shakes, which is the case with some other programs.  You can eat real food in reasonable, satisfying quantities.

Weight Watchers is Affordable

In some cases, your Medicare supplement or Medicare Advantage plan may cover the cost of your Weight Watchers weight loss program meetings.  They may also cover the cost of a gym membership. Call your insurance agent or provider and ask what programs they will cover for weight loss.

Another option is to sign up for Weight Watchers online and use their app on your smartphone.  There is still a fee, but it is much less than the cost of attending the meetings.  If you choose this option, you may also want to join a Weight Watchers Facebook support group.  There are several and most of them are very welcoming.  The members exchange recipes and tips for reducing the point value of their favorite meals.  They also give each other support and encouragement.

How Does Weight Watchers Freestyle Work?

The 2018 version of Weight Watchers, called Freestyle, allows members to satisfy their hunger as much as possible from a list of over 200 "free" foods.  These foods have "0" points and you do not have to keep track of them.  They include skinless chicken or turkey breast meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, unsweetened Greek yogurt, all fruits and most vegetables, with the exception of a few vegetables such as potatoes and avocados.

In addition, you have a daily allowance of approximately 23 points for women and a few more for men.   You are also allowed an extra 35 weekly points for special events and treats.  Your points can be used for food items not on the 0 point list such as red meat (roughly 1 to 1.5 points an ounce), bread (about 2 points a slice), cereal (about 6 points for 1 1/2 cups), milk and similar satisfying foods.  These points allow you to have more interesting meals.  The foods which are not on your 0 point list are the only foods you need to track when you eat them.  You can use a notebook or the smartphone app to track what you eat, and the app can also help you find the point value of thousands of homemade, prepared and restaurant foods.

The group leader at your Weight Watcher meeting or the smartphone app will tell you exactly how many points you are allowed, depending on your gender, current weight and other data.

Other Ways to Increase Your Weight Loss

In addition to following the eating program above, here are a few other tricks which may help you lose weight:

Purchase a Weight Watchers Freestyle cookbook or get their magazine, to discover more tips for healthy, low-calorie meals.

Make sure you eat at least 60 grams of protein a day, which will help satisfy your hunger and maintain steady blood sugar levels.

If you feel more motivated when you are accountable to other people, you may want to sign up for the weekly meetings rather than only use the smartphone app.  You may also want to get a weight loss buddy, so you can encourage each other to eat right and stay on the program.

Use the app to look up the point value of different foods before you go to a restaurant.  Then, you will feel confident you can enjoy a meal in your favorite restaurant without resorting to only eating salads with no dressing!  I have discovered that I can enjoy a hamburger, chicken fajitas, and many other favorite dishes whenever I go out with friends.

Get rid of fattening trigger foods in your pantry, such as chips, cookies or pastries. Replace them with a wide variety of foods from the 0 point list, such as fruit, sugar-free fruit cups, vegetables, frozen shrimp, and plain Greek yogurt.  You will also want to keep on hand a selection of low-calorie desserts, air-popped popcorn and similar treats you enjoy, so you do not feel deprived.

Get regular exercise every day.  You may feel more inspired if you wear a fitness tracker like a Fitbit Watch or a Garmin Vivofit.  Many people have discovered that fitness trackers are a good way to keep track of their improving fitness, even when the scale does not seem to be showing lower numbers.  It is another way to keep you motivated and on target.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any weight loss program and follow any instructions he may have regarding your food choices.  Many people with kidney disease, diabetes or other health problems will also have to incorporate specific dietary requirements into their eating plan.

If you are interested in reading more about dealing with health issues as we age, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is scheduled to be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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More and more frequently, when patients visit their physician's office, they may be seen by a nurse practitioner rather than the doctor.  The reason for this change is simple:  The demand for healthcare is increasing along with the size of our population, but the supply of primary care doctors is dropping.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in the next 12 years the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of approximately 43,100 primary care physicians.  Because of this situation, nurse practitioners are filling the gap.

What Tasks Can a Nurse Practitioner Perform?

When I scheduled an appointment to see the dermatologist, it was a nurse practitioner who assessed my skin and removed a tiny area for a biopsy.  Since I had never been seen by a nurse practitioner before, I was concerned she might not be as qualified as the dermatologist.   As a result, I wanted to learn more about nurse practitioners and thought my readers would also want to know what I discovered.

According to an article in the July-August, 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin, nurse practitioners can perform many of the same tasks as doctors.  Just like the nurse practitioner (N.P.) who checked my skin, they are allowed to assess patients, diagnose illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests (such as x-rays or biopsies), prescribe medications and give patients instructions on their treatment.  They can also perform minor surgical procedures, such as the tissue biopsy which was performed on me.  This information was a relief to me, since these were precisely the tasks which my nurse practitioner did.

While I saw an N.P. who specialized in dermatology, 80 percent of them work in the area of primary care.  The opposite is true of physicians; only 14.5 percent of them choose a primary care residency.

What Training Does a Nurse Practitioner Receive?

My next question was how well trained my nurse practitioner was.  Was she qualified to perform these tasks?  According to the article mentioned above, a nurse practitioner must have a bachelor's degree in nursing, be a licensed registered nurse (R.N.), obtain national certification, and submit to peer review and clinical outcome evaluations before she can be referred to as an N.P.  Their training also stresses prevention and wellness, not just treatment.  However, they do not receive as much education and training as a physician, who must receive a four-year undergraduate degree, spend four years in medical school and then commit to another three to seven years performing a residency.   

Are Patients Satisfied with Care Give by Nurse Practitioners?

Despite the fact that nurse practitioners do not receive as much formal education as physicians, the patient outcomes are considered comparable.  In addition, in at least one study patients rated nurse practitioners 9.8 out of 10; doctors only scored 7.2. This indicates that patients are actually more satisfied with the treatment they received from the nurse practitioners, as compared to doctors.  In my case, I was very pleased with the attention I was given by the nurse practitioner and was satisfied that she was careful and thorough.

What Else Should You Know About Nurse Practitioners?

Nurse practitioners can practice in all 50 states.  As of early 2017, they were able to practice without the supervision of a physician in 22 states and the District of Columbia, as well as within the Veteran's Administration health system. This means they can have a private practice, without a physician on the staff.  In the other 28 states, they are restricted to only being able to practice if they collaborate with a doctor.

As of this writing, there were an estimated 222,000 nurse practitioners in the United States.  Approximately 244,000 are expected to be practicing in the U.S. by 2025.  This will go a long way towards compensating for the 43,100 doctor shortage which is anticipated by 2030.

In communities where patients receive care from a combination of N.P.s and physicians, the cost of care and the number of avoidable hospitalization have been reduced.

If you live in a rural or under-served community where there is a shortage of doctors, you are more likely to see a nurse practitioner.  However, this is not always the case.  I live in a large, urban area and my healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente, scheduled my dermatology appointment with an N.P. rather than an MD.

Although most people seem to be very satisfied with the service provided by a nurse practitioner, you should clarify who are seeing if you have any concerns.

This new trend could help Medicare recipients in the future in a number of ways, including making healthcare more affordable and accessible, no matter where you live in the United States.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues which affect retirees, where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in the fall of 2017.

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This week we have a guest post from Corey Thompson, a Texas attorney who specializes in estate planning and Social Security Disability law.  The subject he chose to cover in his post was overseas retirement.  This is a very timely article because hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers are enthusiastically exploring the possibility of moving to other countries when they retire.

Recently, a number of articles have been published on the topic of overseas retirement.  In addition to the information provided below by Mr. Thompson, retirees should consider a number of factors before deciding whether or not to move to another country.  These factors would include potential U.S. State Department travel warnings, your willingness to learn a new language (which can be extremely important in an emergency), and your flexibility.  You are not going to be able to perfectly recreate your current American lifestyle in another country.  Are you willing and able to accept that many things will be different and, in some cases, less convenient than you are accustomed to here?

Retirees who move abroad also need to be aware they cannot use Medicare while living in another country.  They will need to investigate whether they can buy insurance or pay to belong to the national healthcare system in the country where they want to live.  Finally, they will want to take an extended vacation in the country before committing to living there.  During that time, they will also want to talk to a Realtor, attorney and CPA in the other country to learn more about meeting local residency requirements, purchasing or leasing property, and paying taxes.

Below is the guest post by Corey Thompson

Five Places to Retire Overseas
As the American population ages, a growing number of Baby Boomers are retiring overseas.  The Associated Press reported that from 2010 to 2015, international retirement rates rose 17 percent.  There are now at least 400,000 seniors who have left the United States and retired overseas, usually in an effort to make their dollars stretch further.  Those figures are expected to rise in coming years. The countries with the most expats are Canada, Japan, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom.  These countries are all good choices for someone considering living abroad.

Factors to Consider When Retiring Internationally

"Live and Invest Overseas" has put together a list of thirty possible retirement destinations which they have ranked based on a number of factors, including:

*  Cost of living
*  Infrastructure
*  Healthcare
*  Entertainment/recreation
*  Expat community
*  English spoken
*  Climate
*  Real estate affordability
*  Taxes
*  Safety

Top Retirement Destinations

With the above factors taken into consideration, when I looked over the list of recommended spots, the ones I suggest retirees consider when relocating internationally are:

Portugal's Algarve Region

The Algarve Region is commonly referred to as the "old world region" of Portugal.  This location scored the highest in the safety and healthcare categories.  English is a widely spoken language.  Best of all, the Algarve Region is home to 42 golf courses and 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline.  The rent for a two-bedroom apartment is about $720 per month.  If you're worried about citizenship, Portugal offers two plans.  The first plan is the "Gold Visa Program." This program allows you to purchase real estate in Portugal, with the contingency that you stay in the country at least one week every year.  The other plan is called "self-sufficiency residency."  To become a citizen under this plan, you must have an income of $1,300 a month and stay in Portugal for six months per year.  Since the average Social Security income of American retirees is a little over $1,300 a month, many retired Americans would be able to take advantage of this opportunity.

Valletta, Malta

Malta is a small, but beautiful country.  In order to obtain residency, you must rent a house or apartment.  Two-bedroom apartments usually rent for around $915 per month.  Malta is also know to have a vibrant nightlife.

Mazatlan, Mexico

Mexico is one of the aforementioned countries and is home to a growing number of American retirees.  Many people like Mexico because of its close proximity to the U.S., making it easy to frequently return and visit family and friends.  Mazatlan is a city located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico and features twenty miles of beaches.  It is also home to an international airport, fabulous street food, world-class fishing, and a tropical climate. (Note: It is particularly important to note that in recent years, some parts of Mexico have received an official Travel Warning from the U.S. State Department.  It is always wise to check the State Department website before visiting or moving to Mexico,as well as other countries, and before traveling around any country once you have moved there.)

Abruzzo, Italy

The Abruzzo Region of Italy has been called by many "the most overlooked and undervalued" landing spot for American retirees.  Abruzzo is located in central Italy and features a climate similar to the northern half of the United States ... hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  In Abruzzo, it is estimated you could live on about $1,400 a month, which is within the budget of many retirees dependent on Social Security.

Saint-Chinian, France

Saint-Chinian is the perfect city for wine lovers.  The city is located in Southern France and is particularly well-known for the variety of delicious local wines.  It is more expensive than the other places listed here, but you can still live there comfortably for about $2,000 a month.

Can You Leave International Properties In Your Estate Plan?

The simple answer to this question is yes, you can leave international properties in your estate, although, there are a number of issues which will factor into the decision to leave your foreign property in your estate. You must take into consideration the taxation, whether you will need a will in both the U.S and the foreign country, whether that country will honor a U.S will, or whether you need an international will. An additional factor which should be taken into consideration is whether you should leave the property in a trust. For more information, it is advisable to discuss your specific situation with an experienced estate planning attorney.  (Note: You may need both an American attorney and one in the country where you own property.)

More Thoughts on Moving Overseas

The list of international places to retire could be much longer, depending on a wide variety of factors.  At the end of the day, it is up to each person to determine what they are looking for in a retirement community.  If you love golf, then perhaps the Algarve Region of Portugal would be your dream retirement location.  If you are looking for a large expat community, Mazatlan in Mexico may have everything you desire.  What is my advice to you?  Decide what you want, then spend time finding a location which will best meet your needs.

            * * * * * * *

About the Author

Carey Thompson has been practicing Social Security Disability and estate planning law since 2008, after graduating from Texas Wesleyan School of Law, now known as Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth, TX.  While at Texas Wesleyan, he served on the Law Review.  Prior to attending Law School, Mr. Thompson was a high school band director for four years, using his degree in music education from Michigan State University.  He is a practicing attorney in Tarrant County, Texas.

            * * * * * *

If you are interested in more information about retirement planning, where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, Social Security, Medicare, common health problems and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this blog to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is due to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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By the time they retire, many Baby Boomers will face a very difficult financial situation.  The majority of Baby Boomers have simply not saved enough money to keep up the lifestyle they enjoyed before they retired.  Other retirees have discovered that they have enough money to cover their living expenses, but would like to economize so they can travel and pursue other hobbies.

Retirees are handling their financial shortfalls in a variety of ways, including part-time retirement jobs, downsizing to smaller homes, finding roommates, and even moving in with their adult children.  In addition, many Baby Boomers have found there are a variety of areas in their life where they can save money so they can continue to live independently and have an enjoyable lifestyle.

If you had a solid middle class income during your working years, you may not have paid too much attention to how to reduce your expenses.  It is also possible you may have been financially careful in some areas of your life, but did not know how to economize in other ways.  In addition, even if you were good at using discounts when you were younger, you may now learn that some discounts are only available after you reach your mid-60s.

Below is a list of ways you might be able to save money.  These ideas could make your retirement more comfortable and pleasant.  Check out the ideas below and see if you can put any of them to work for you.

Save Money on Trips

* Bring an empty water bottle on airline trips and fill it from the water fountain after you go through security.
* Take your toll transponder with you on road trips within your state to benefit from discounts on the tolls.
* Join AARP and/or AAA and ask hotels and tourist attractions if they offer a discount for members of those organizations.  If they do not, ask if they offer discounts for senior citizens or other types of discounts.
*  AARP members can also save money on long-term airport parking at ParkRideFlyUSA.com, if they pre-book their parking on the website.
*  If you travel overseas, make sure your credit card does not charge a foreign transaction fee.
*  Be flexible when booking air travel.  In some cases, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and holidays.

Save Money on Medical Expenses

* Shop around before filling prescriptions and ask if it would be better to use your insurance or pay the retail price.  Surprisingly, sometimes the retail price is less expensive than your insurance co-pay.
*  Once you are on Medicare, you may qualify for the Extra Help program at socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp or call 800-772-1213 and learn how you can save money on your prescriptions.
*  You may also qualify for free medications through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at pparx.org.  It is worth the effort to at least apply.

Save Money on Transportation

*  Make sure you are not wasting money on gas; remove rooftop carriers or anything else which could reduce your mileage. Consolidate your trips, so you are driving as little as possible.  Find local services, such as hair dressers and nail salons, to reduce your driving even more.
*  Keep your tires inflated to boost you gas mileage.
*  Shop around for the least expensive gas in your area; make sure you take into consideration any discounts offered by your grocery store, including Costco, Safeway, Kroger and Vons.
*  Shop for lower priced auto insurance.  It can help if you have a good driving record and take an online safety course.
*  Use public transportation, when possible.  Many cities offer senior vouchers for discount taxi rides, bus tickets, train discounts, etc. You may find it is possible and less expensive to have no car at all.  If you are a two-car couple, you may discover you can get by with just one.

Save Money on Your Lifestyle

*  Raise the thermostat temperature in your home in the summer and lower it in winter.  In the summer, a ceiling fan can reduce your air conditioning costs.
*  Shop for some of your clothes at resale shops or online at Poshmark.com; look for sales before buying other products; purchase reconditioned tools and similar items.  Avoid paying the full retail price whenever possible.
*  Take advantage of discounts and coupons; use discount sites like @AmazonDeals or coupon sites whenever you can. Order discounted gift cards by shopping for gift cards at sites like GiftCardGranny.com or TheGiftCardShop.com.
* Ask your service providers, including your internet provider, cable company, or cell phone service, if they will give you a discount in order to keep your business.  You may also decide to get rid of services you rarely use or do not need. Consider using a prepaid cell phone plan.  You might also decide to eliminate your telephone landline and only use a cell phone.
*  If you need to use an out-of-network ATM, ask your bank to reimburse the fee.
*  Make more of your food from scratch, including your favorite beverages, pizza, salad dressing and soups.  Eat less meat and cheaper cuts, when possible.
*  Buy large containers of soft soap, window cleaner or similar supplies and refill your own bottles.
*  Use dryer balls rather than fabric softener.  They cost less and reduce your use of chemicals.
*  Get your books from the library.
*  Get cash back when you shop, either from a cash back credit card and/or a site like Ebates.
*  Use YouTube videos to make your own simple home repairs, change your own car filters, or even find exercise videos.
*  Get your taxes done for free through the AARP Foundation.  Find out how to make an appointment at aarp.org/taxaide or call 888-687-2277.
*  Use your computer to search for discount codes when you order online.  Try sites like joinhoney.com

Save Money on Personal Care

* Look for cheaper alternatives to products you use.  For example, women could use men's shaving cream, store-brand beauty products, or baby oil to remove eye makeup.  In fact, both men and women may discover store brands which meet their needs quite well.
* Need a massage or haircut?  See if there is a massage school or beauty school in your community.
* Buy your eyeglasses online from sites like zennioptical.com.  If you are an AARP member, you can also save at EyeMed.

Save Money When You Go Out

* Ask for senior discounts at restaurants, movie theaters and wherever they are offered. You can also purchase low cost movie tickets at Costco.com ... although you might save even more at a discount movie theater or by going to matinee performances.
*  When eating out, consider splitting an entree or sticking with appetizers. Check to see which restaurants have specials on certain days, so you can eat out less expensively.  Skip ordering expensive alcoholic beverages at restaurants.  Enjoy a cocktail at home, instead.
*  Look for coupons at Restaurant.com to get discounts at restaurants.
*  Try having dinner at a local culinary school.
*  Watch your local newspaper or check online for free summer concerts, neighborhood events, free museum days, spring training for your favorite baseball team, festivals, parades or other free and low-cost activities in your area.

A number of these ideas came from our personal experience, as well as from the July-August, 2017 issue of the AARP Bulletin.  Many people have found that an AARP membership pays for itself when members take advantage of the discounts which are offered at hotels, Avis and Budget Rent-a-car, a variety of restaurants, movie theaters and other locations.  AARP also has a job website at aarp.org/jobs for those who feel they will need a retirement job, no matter how much money they manage to save.

If you are interested in other retirement planning ideas, suggestions on where to retire in the U.S. and abroad, Social Security, Medicare, common medical problems and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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While many of the posts in this blog are about how to live the longest, healthiest life possible, eventually all of us are going to face a time when we eventually decline in health and die.  Even before our death, we could experience a period of time when we are incapacitated because of a heart attack, stroke or dementia and become unable to handle our bills and other responsibilities.  The kindest thing we can do for our families is to gather our documents in one place and have an end-of-life plan.

How to Begin Planning the End of Your Life

You may be surprised to know that both you and your loved ones will have greater peace-of-mind once you have made an end-of-life plan.  After you have accomplished this, you can set it aside and hope it does not need to be activated for years or even decades.

In order to be prepared, you should contact a lawyer, write a will, set up a trust, and complete an advanced healthcare directive. You should also talk to a mortuary, prepay your funeral, if possible, and leave instructions with your heirs. You will need to choose a trustee to carry out your will, someone who will have a financial power of attorney to handle your finances if you are unable to, and a person who will carry out your medical wishes, as specified in your advanced healthcare directive.  These do not have to be the same people.

Making the decisions involved with writing these documents will help you clarify your thinking about who should be your trustee and who should make healthcare decisions for you, in the event you become incapacitated.

Create two Notebooks with Copies of Important Documents

Once you have completed the paperwork, you will want to get two three-ring binders and insert copies of your important documents.  Among the things you will want to include are copies of your:

Will and Trust
Advanced healthcare directive
Driver's License
Social Security card
Insurance policies, including health, life and long-term care
Bank account information
Property title, mortgage documents, etc.
Titles to your cars and other vehicles
Personal property inventory, pictures and bequests
Military ID, Military service records, veteran disability status
Passport or citizenship papers
Marriage or domestic partnership certificate
Divorce decrees, pre-marital or post-marital agreements
Spouse's death certificate
List of your diseases or health issues
List of doctors, pharmacies and medications
List of friends, family members, church, employer, etc. and their contact info
Information on what to do with your pets
Advanced funeral planning information
Computer passwords for bank, brokerage or other important accounts, or instructions on where your heirs can find these passwords

Keep one of these notebooks for yourself and your spouse to use.  Give the other notebook to the family member or other person who will handle your affairs in the event you die or become temporarily incapacitated. 

What to Tell Your Other Family Members

Once you have made your plans, put them in writing, and assembled your notebooks, tell your trustee and other family members about your plans.  Let them know how you would like things handled if you become seriously ill or die.  Then, reassure your loved ones that you are not currently ill and you hope these instructions are not needed for many years.  Make sure your family members are all aware of your desires, long before the time comes.

Maintain your End of Life Planning

Things may change over the years.  Your trustee may become ill and unable to fulfill their role in the future.  Your insurance policies, names of doctors, and the medications you are taking could change.  Periodically you will need to review your notebook and update it.  When you update your own notebook, make sure you also update the one in the possession of your trustee, to reduce any confusion in the future.

If you take these steps, you and your heirs will discover you have much less to worry about when you do become seriously ill and the end of your life seems imminent.

If you are interested in more information about retirement planning, where to retire, common medical issues, Social Security, Medicare, and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Are you at risk of becoming an elder orphan?  These are people who reach retirement age unmarried, childless, and with no close relatives who can care for them if they become unable to care for themselves.  It is also possible to effectively be an elder orphan if you have adult children with mental, emotional, or physical problems which would make them incapable of caring you.  Careers and other situations could also mean your children may live too far away to be of much assistance.

In a poll conducted by Caring Right at Home, only 25 percent of the respondents indicated they were completely confident they would have adequate family support if they needed care in the future.  There is a good reason for this concern.  Today's average senior citizen will start retirement with approximately seven people in their family who could possibly help them.  By 2050, when Baby Boomers begin hitting their eighties, that ratio is expected to drop to an average of fewer than three potential caregivers per senior citizen.  In fact, many Baby Boomers will have no one at all who will be able to help them.  People in this situation are known as Elder Orphans.

Elder Orphans May Decline and Die More Quickly

There have been several posts written on this blog about the importance of family, friends and social connections for those who hope to enjoy a long life and satisfying retirement.  People without those connections are much less like to have positive outcomes.  Some of the problems they could experience are:

*  Hastened cognitive decline (dementia)
*  Faster functional decline (difficulty with self-care)
*  Mental health issues (such as depression)
*  Premature death

How Communities Can Help Elder Orphans

The negative outcomes listed above are not inevitable.  Communities can reach out to help their seniors; in addition, the individuals themselves can plan ahead and make arrangements for their future care.

People who do not have a support system as they age are often a hidden population.  They may be surrounded by neighbors and community members who have no idea how much they are struggling to survive.  Below are steps which communities can take to minimize the problem:

*  Authorities can educate their residents to be aware of the elderly in their neighborhoods so they can help authorities identify anyone who may need a helping hand.

*  Communities can also join the new "Age-in-Place Village" movement, which is simply a way to simplify and organize services and make programs more accessible to the elderly in the area.  These services might include recruiting volunteers to help with home repairs and transportation, organizing Meals on Wheels or hot meals at Senior Centers, and helping seniors find solutions to any other nutritional, housing, transportation and medical problems they may face.  Each person's needs will be different, but they could require help filing their tax returns, dealing with medical bills, finding appropriate housing, or hiring a caregiver. 

How Elder Orphans Can Help Themselves 

No one should face retirement and expect their local community to step in and take care of everything for them.  While local agencies may be helpful, everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves as they age ... especially if they are at risk of becoming an elder orphan.  Even those who have a spouse at the beginning of retirement may eventually discover themselves widowed, and those with adult children may ultimately find their children have their own problems and cannot do a good job of taking care of their parents, too.  In addition, children may live far away and only see their parents two or three times a year. As a result, they may not be aware of some of the problems their parents are having with day-to-day life.

Below are some of the things you can do to minimize your risk of becoming an elder orphan and having no one who is able to care for you on a consistent basis:

*  Consider purchasing a long-term care insurance policy while you are middle aged and still healthy.  The insurance will pay for you to move into a long-term care facility or have an in-home caregiver when you reach the point when you can no longer care for yourself.

*  Instead of a long-term care policy, you could also consider moving into a CCRC ... a Continuing Care Retirement Community.  Many people initially move into independent living apartments or homes in one of these communities.  Later, if you need skilled nursing or memory care, the contract you have with the CCRC will generally guarantee that they will care for you for the rest of your life.

*  Even if you do not buy long-term care insurance or move into a CCRC, you can still prepare for the future by doing everything possible to arrange your affairs so you are secure.  Talk to a financial planner and make sure you have a regular stream of income which will last the rest of your life.  Make alterations to your home so it will be safe and accessible, even if you have surgery or if you are temporarily incapacitated.  You should also investigate the available support services in your community, should you need them, including available transportation, local in-home care agencies, financial aid, and volunteer organizations.  In addition, check out commercial services such as Amazon and other online shopping services, meal delivery, mail order prescriptions, and laundry services. You should also make a contingency plan for getting whatever care you might need in the future.  Planning ahead will enable you to remain self-reliant for many years.

*  Finally, no matter what other plans you make for the future, be sure to expand your circle of friends.  If you have no family nearby, your friends can become closer than your family.  Friends can fill in the gaps when you need them.  You can share holidays together, give each other rides to doctor appointments, take care of one another's pets, and be an emotional support when you go through difficult times.  The more time you spend developing friendships, the better your future support system will be.

For more information about planning for retirement, CCRCs, long-term care insurance, finding a place to retire, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Each December, the Baby Boomer Retirement blog looks back at the retirement news which captivated our readers the most during the preceding year.  The most popular retirement stories of 2017 ranged from financial concerns to the latest news on how to live a long, healthy life while remaining free of dementia.  One interesting new retirement community also made our list of top stories.

All of the major topics covered in the past year were important both to people who have already retired, as well as those who are still planning their retirement.  Below is a list of the most popular articles of 2017, with links so you can read the entire article for yourself.

If there are additional topics which may interest you, use the pull down menu or tabs at the top of this page to find links to almost 500 helpful articles, organized by topic.

2017 Most Popular Retirement Stories

How to Find Jobs Late in Life - Millions of Americans are discovering they simply cannot retire on Social Security and their savings alone.  When this happens, their best option in many cases is to find a job and continue working as long as possible.  This article contains both general tips for finding a retirement job, as well as links to specific sites where you can explore the available jobs or find job retraining opportunities.

Travel Scams to Avoid - One of the joys of retirement is the ability to travel whenever you want, without concern for your children's school schedule or similar issues.  However, older people are also more likely to be victimized by scammers. Learn about some of the most common travel scams and the steps you can take to avoid falling victim to them.

How to Live Longer - Add Years to Your Life - Although no one can guarantee that you will live to be 100 years old, there are some interesting traits which appear to be common in those with the greatest longevity.  Read the tips in this brief article and learn how to minimize your odds of dying an early death.

Social Security Myths and Misunderstandings - Have you been told that it is too late to save our nation's Social Security program and there will be no money left by the time you retire?  Do you think the problem is result of people living too long?  You may have become a victim of some of the myths and misunderstandings which are prevalent about Social Security.  Learn the truth and discover the practical suggestions Congress could enact in order to save the Social Security for yourself and future generations.

Tips for a Sharper Brain and Better Memory - What can you do to keep your brain sharp and fully functioning?  What are the cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure numbers you should strive to achieve?  Do you know the connection between good heart health and good brain health?  This article will help you understand what your lifestyle, health and diet goals should be if you want to maximize your memory and brain function.

Margaritaville Retirement Communities - Remember the Jimmy Buffett song "Margaritaville?"  Many Baby Boomers think of it as a great theme for their retirement.  Now, a developer in Florida is actually building a collection of retirement communities which have been designed around a Margaritaville theme.  Learn more about these communities in this article and decide if one of these retirement communities might be right for you.

Early Diagnosis of Dementia is Possible - Many people are surprised to learn that memory loss is NOT the first sign that someone could be developing dementia.  Some of the earliest symptoms are much more subtle, such as anxiety, aggression, apathy and poor impulse control, to name a few. Learn more about how to recognize that you or a loved one could be developing dementia, so early treatment can be started.

How to Retire without a Car - Most Americans dread the day when they might have to give up their car. It could happen because the expense becomes too much for you to handle on a retirement income, or you may develop health conditions which make it impossible for you to drive.  Whatever the reason, there are a variety of affordable alternatives to driving which would make it possible for you to continue to get around and enjoy your life, even without a car.

Opiod Addiction in Retirees - Every year, approximately one-third of all Medicare patients are prescribed opioid painkillers by their doctors.  As a result, millions of Americans over the age are 50 have begun abusing these dangerous drugs.  In fact, roughly 42 percent of all the opioid overdoses in the U.S. have happened to people over the age of 45.  Learn more about this health crisis, including the names of the most commonly prescribed opioids, so you can insist that your own physician does not put you on the dangerous road to addiction.

Short on Retirement Savings? - One-half of all Baby Boomers have saved less than $100,000 towards retirement.  One-third have less than $50,000.  To make matters worse, the average amount of Social Security benefits is less than $1400 a month.  This article contains a number of practical solutions for helping to solve your retirement income shortfall so your senior years can still be enjoyable.

Medicare and Cancer Benefits - Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment - If you are on Medicare and receive a cancer diagnosis, you may be worried about your insurance coverage.  This article was written by a Medicare insurance specialist and will help put your mind at ease, in most cases.

Vacation Timeshare Risks and Benefits - Millions of Americans own timeshares, with the number increasing every years.  Many time share owners appreciate the convenience of owning a "second home" without bearing the full burden of the annual expense and maintenance.  However, there are also disadvantages to timeshare ownership and they can be difficult to resell.  Learn more about timeshare ownership. 

How to Hire a Home Care Agency - Assuming you are fortunate enough to live a long life, it is likely that eventually you or someone in your family will need the services of a caregiver. What requirements should you look for in a home care agency?  What characteristics are important in the caregiver they send to your home?  This article will help you find a reputable agency and high-quality caregiver for yourself or someone you love.

If you are interested in learning more about financial planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common health problems and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness:  10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which is due to be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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If you are a senior citizen living in a long-term care facility and you have no friends or family members who can be advocates for you, a long-term care ombudsman could help make sure your needs are being met.  This federally mandated program is provided free by trained volunteers.  Every licensed facility in the United States is required to prominently display an Ombudsman poster which features the program's local contact information and a list of the services they can provide.

Ombudsmen are Well-Trained

In California and most other states, ombudsmen must go through an orientation which involves visiting skilled nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in their area.  They also must take a 36 hour class, spend time in the field under supervision and receive state certification.

The Ombudsman Program is based on the concept that even the very elderly have the right to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination, dignity and respect. They have the right to have someone listen to their concerns and make sure their wishes are carried out.  They also have the right to know that someone will take their complaints seriously and investigate accusations of abuse, neglect or theft.

There is a large need for volunteers who want to serve the elderly in their community as ombudsmen.  In my small California county alone, Orange County, there are over 1,000 licensed long-term care facilities, and each one is likely to contain at least a few seniors who do not have anyone who can stand up for their rights.

What Services are Performed by Ombudsmen?

There are a number of ways in which an ombudsman is able to help the residents of a long-term care facility:

*  Most importantly, they listen to residents, particularly their complaints
*  They make frequent, unannounced visits to care facilities to evaluate what the day-to-day life is like in the facility
*  They make sure the facilities are clean and well-maintained
*  They confirm the food being served is appropriate for the patients' medical conditions
*  They investigate suspected cases of physical and emotional abuse or neglect
*  They investigate cases of lost or stolen personal belongings
*  They confirm that medications are dispensed in a timely and correct manner
*  They report suspected problems to licensing agencies
*  They attend resident council meetings at the long-term care facilities
*  They can help mediate disagreements between residents and their families or caregivers
*  They can be a witness on an Advance Healthcare Directive so the final wishes of residents will be respected.

How to Get More Information

Whether you want to volunteer as an ombudsman in your community or you have a family member who might need the services of an ombudsman, you can get more information at:


 National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center

If you are looking for more information about retirement planning, common medical problems, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare, changing family relationships and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing and Watering Seeds in early 2018.

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Did you know there are places where you can get money or property if you move there?  People often wonder about the cost of retirement, especially if they know their retirement income will not be large enough for them to survive in their current location.  Many people spend their working years in expensive cities like New York, Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles or San Francisco.  When they approach retirement, they are distressed when they realize there is no way they can afford to retire in their current location.  Where can they go?

One solution is to look for affordable places which will actually pay you to relocate!  Yes, there are places which desperately want more residents and they are willing to offer financial incentives to those who will move there. Kiplinger and a few other online sites provided the information for the list below.

The locations on the list offer a variety of rewards for people willing to relocate, including housing allowances, free lots or home building sites, tax rebates, help with student loan repayment and more. Depending on the incentives which are offered, your entire family may even be motivated to relocate somewhere new.  As a result, this list does not contain just those offers which would be appealing to senior citizens, but also those which might make life easier for other family members, as well.

Places Which Will Pay You to Live There

Rural Kansas - If you would like to move to rural Kansas, and you have not lived in the state for the past five years, 77 of the state's 105 counties offer state income tax waivers for up to five years.  Seventy of those counties also offer student-loan repayments of up to $15,000, if you have a young adult in your family who would like to relocate with you.  They must have received an associate's, bachelor's or post-graduate degree and meet other requirements. A few of the counties are also offering free lots or other incentives. This could be an opportunity for your entire family to get a fresh start.  Kansas also has an affordable cost-of-living and some couples will find they can live there on their Social Security alone.

The State of Alaska - When my husband and I traveled in Alaska about ten years ago, we were amazed by the number of people we met who had spent their working years in the "lower 48 states" and then retired to Alaska.  The incentive is that Alaska pays mineral royalties to all their residents each year.  The annual royalties have ranged from less than $500 to over $2,000 per person in the family.  You cannot be absent from the state for over 180 days a year and you cannot have been convicted or incarcerated for a felony or certain misdemeanors.  Residents much apply each year between January 1 and March 31.  The royalties are a terrific way to supplement your retirement income.  In addition, many of the retirees we met were working during the summer in the tourist industry as bus drivers, store clerks and tour guides.  In the dead of winter, residents of Alaska often take their vacations or visit relatives who live in more moderate climates, so you are not stuck living there all year long.  In fact, you can spend half the year living in a more temperate climate, while still receiving the annual royalties.

Harmony, Minnesota - This town of roughly 1,000 people will give you a $12,000 cash rebate if you build a new home in the community.  There are lots available in the town for about that price, so basically they are giving you the cost of a home building site.  There are several large companies in the area which create some job opportunities for people nearing retirement or other members of their family. If you enjoy outdoor life and an affordable, small town environment, this offer could make it possible for you to build your own retirement home.

The Province of  Saskatchewan, Canada - If you are willing to relocate to Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan wants to attract and keep more college graduates.  If you or other family members are recent college graduates, they will reimburse the tuition fees which were paid during college.  In turn, this money could be used to pay off college loans.  If the adult children in your family are looking for a way to pay off their student loans, and they want to live in an area with other highly educated people, this could be an exciting place for the entire family to relocate.

New Haven, Connecticut - Because of the low homeownership rate in the city, they are offering as much as $80,000 in incentives to help residents purchase homes or make energy-saving home upgrades.   Your children or grandchildren can even get free tuition to any Connecticut college if they graduate from public school in the state and are good academic standing.  If you love the Northeast and are looking for a lovely state where you can enjoy your retirement, you may want to explore this offer.

Curtis, Nebraska - If you would like to build your own retirement home, but cannot afford to purchase a lot, another place you might consider is Curtis, Nebraska.  This small town of less than 900 people is offering free lots on which you can build a new home or set up a modular home.  This could be a very affordable opportunity for many retirees. You have to start construction within six months of being given the lot, and complete construction within 24 months.

Detroit, Michigan -  If you happen to work for certain companies which are located in the downtown or midtown parts of Detroit, they will give cash and loans to both renters and new homeowners who are willing to live in certain communities in the city. They are trying to attract new residents to the inner city so, if you are willing to be an urban pioneer and would like to work for one of the companies on their list during the years prior to retirement, this could be a good way to get yourself in a better position to retire.

Niagara Falls, New York -  This romantic mecca for honeymooners will help repay student loans for recent college graduates or those your have a two-year technical degree. Recipients can receive as much as $3,492 a year for two years.  In return, they must agree to live in certain parts of downtown Niagara Falls for the full two years.  Because the population of the city is shrinking, they are trying to attract young, educated adults.  If you have a young adult in your family who is struggling to repay their student loans, your entire family might find it beneficial to move to Niagara Falls.  Retirees may even be able to find work in the tourist trade in the area.

Important:  Be sure to thoroughly check out the offers which interest you.  Each one of them has special requirements which you may or may not be willing to accept.  For example, you may be required to build your home within a certain length of time or work for a particular company.  Make sure you fully understand the offer before making a major move.  

If you are looking for more ideas about where to retire in the United States or other countries, financial planning, common medical problems, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be released by Griffin Publishing in 2018. 

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