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Category Archives: Financial & legal

Don’t Discount These Serious Senior Discounts

Becoming a senior citizen in today’s world, definitely has its pros and cons. While it’s easy to gripe about all the aches and pains of aging, you’ll never hear anyone complain about the ever-growing list of senior discounts. They are almost too numerous to mention. But we’ll take a crack at it here.

If you don’t know by now, the #1 way for seniors to access discounts galore is by joining AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). For a paltry $16/year, you can enjoy:

  • Deals on health care, including eye exams, glasses and contacts, as well as on prescriptions.
  • Discounted life, auto and pet insurance.
  • Significant savings on travel (flights, cruises, railways, hotels and car rentals).
  • Savings at no less than 28 national restaurants.

But whether you’re into AARP or not, there are many other discounts almost everywhere you look. For example, did you know that you can:

1. Save big on your cell phone bill

Many of the large phone companies offer special savings to senior citizens, and these discounts add up quick!

AT&T offers a special Senior Nation Plan for account holders 65 or older for just $29.99/mo. It has 200 Anytime Minutes, Mobile-to-Mobile Minutes, and Nights and Weekends, without roaming and long-distance charges.

Verizon Wireless offers a special 55-plus nationwide unlimited Talk & Text service plan to customers who are 55 or older, in most locations.

Consumer Cellular: Consumer Cellular offers AARP members over 50 exclusive savings on monthly service charges in addition to discounts on accessories.

2. Bumper-to-bumper auto service discounts

If you’re 55 or over and still own a car, you can save 10% at Pep Boys and Jiffy Lube.

3. Great Discounts on Groceries and Other Shopping

Any senior living on a fixed income should never shopping without being aware of these enticing discounts:

  • American Discount Stores – 10% off every Monday (62+).
  • Banana Republic – 10% off total purchase (50+).
  • Clark’s – 10% off shoes (62+).
  • Fred Meyer – 10-15% off on the first Tuesday of each month (55+).
  • New Seasons – 10% off every Wednesday on most items (65+).
  • Goodwill – 10% off on Tuesdays (60+).
  • Michaels – 10% off (55+).
  • Jo-Ann Fabrics – a senior discount day that included 20% off (55+).
  • Kohl’s – 15% discount on Wednesdays (60+).
  • Rite Aid – various discounts including 20% on the first Wednesday of each month (65+).
  • Habitat for Humanity Restore – 20% off on Thursdays at select locations (55+).

4. Trim your travel budget

If you’ve still got a travel bug, not only do you have the flexibility to go during the off-peak and shoulder seasons, you have the wherewithal to catch some nifty senior savings along the way:

  • Greyhound – 5% off (62+).
  • Amtrak – 10% off (65+).
  • National Parks Service – discounted senior pass for $80 (62+).
  • Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean (55+).
  • Hotels including Best Western Days Inn, Hyatt, Marriott, Ramada and Wyndham offer savings at various ages.
  • Hertz Car Rental – various “Baby Boomer” discounts (50+).
  • Southwest Airlines – various discounts (65+).
  • United Airlines – various discounts (65+).
  • Uber – two free trips on the first day of every month.

5. Make your restaurant tab easier to swallow

While a lot of restaurants offer specials and coupons now and then, here are several popular ones that always feature tasty senior discounts:

  • Applebees – 10% discount
  • Burger King – 10% discount and discounts on drink items.
  • Chick-fil-A – 20% off during breakfast hours and 10% off during lunch/dinner hours.
  • Denny’s – senior menu with discounted prices.
  • Golden Corral – discounted menu prices (60+).
  • IHOP – senior menu as well as 10% off.
  • Outback Steakhouse – 10% off for AARP members.
  • Sonic – 10% discount.
  • Subway – 10% discount.
  • Wendy’s – free drink (or 10% off at some locations).
  • White Castle – 10% off (55+).

6. Once-in-a-lifetime deals on Life Insurance?

The sad truth is, a shocking number of Americans do not own a life insurance policy. If you don’t have one, your family could end up inheriting any debts you might have.

Fortunately for seniors, there is a service called National Family that is now allowing users to get free life insurance quotes at surprisingly low rates from some of the top insurance companies out there. Life insurance rates are at a 20-year low and thanks to new program policies you could qualify for a great new policy at an extremely affordable price. It only takes about 60 seconds to get a free quote today. Once you’ve answered the simple questions, you will be presented with choices and rates. Enjoy your savings!

It’s no secret that the dollar doesn’t go as far as it once did. And it’s tougher than ever to make ends meet on a fixed income or limited retirement plan. But thankfully, being a senior has never offered more ways to save, if you know where to look.

And of course, you can never overlook the greatest senior benefit of all: the opportunity to live at a Sunshine Retirement community.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, April, 2019. Some content was provided by aarp.com, Iloveretirement.com and thepennyhoarder.com.

Tis The Season To Be Wary.
This Christmas, Don’t Let Scam Artists Take The Joy Out Of Your World

We like to think of the holidays as a time of peace on earth and goodwill toward men and women. But the sad fact is, it’s also the time of year when thieves and scammers are as busy as Santa’s elves, preying upon people when they least expect it, or when they’re simply too busy to keep their guard up.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about “porch pirates,” thieves who take advantage of all the cyber shopping before Christmas that leads to an endless stream of valuable packages being left by delivery trucks on front porches everywhere. With many UPS and FedEx drivers delivering well after dark these days, it’s easy for scavengers young and old to sneak on to a front porch and plunder the booty without being seen. Some may even be bold enough to follow the delivery truck down the street from a safe distance and collect treasures they leave behind one after another. It’s gotten so bad, many homeowners have resorted to using Smart Package Lockers at grocery and convenience stores, purchasing expensive porch security cameras, or having packages delivered to their workplace or neighbor’s house instead of their vacant home.

Thankfully, disappearing deliveries aren’t really an issue at retirement communities where packages usually can be received by an attendant inside. But there is another scam known as “Secret Sister” that started sneaking up on seniors via email and social media during the Yuletide season a few years ago and seems to be back with a vengeance this year. So what is it?

Well, the name is a take-off on the Secret Santa gift exchange that many retirement communities participate in at Christmas. You know the drill. You draw a name from a hat and secretly buy that person an inexpensive gift that they open in front of everyone at the community party. The sillier the gift, the better. It’s all pretty innocent and a great source of unwanted novelty items. Secret Sister appears to be just as innocent to most seniors, because it’s based on the concept of chain letters that you sent as a youth. The problem is it could put you in a great deal of trouble. And chances are, you’ll never get to open a single gift.

Here’s how the scam works:

When you were a child or teenager, chain letters often arrived in your mailbox or were jammed through your front door. With Secret Sister, the chain letter lands in your digital mailbox. For seniors, Facebook seems to be the most common avenue because it offers the possibility of being sent pinging all around the globe, and most seniors don’t expect foul play among their Facebook friends and family. The messages can vary wildly, but one of the popular ones reads as follows:

Anyone interested in a Holiday Gift exchange? I don’t care where you live – you are welcome to join. I need 6 (or more) ladies of any age to participate in a secret sister gift exchange. You only have to buy ONE gift valued at $10 or more and send it to one secret sister and you will receive 6-36 in return!

Let me know if you are interested and I will send you the information! Please don’t ask to participate if you are not willing to spend the $10.

TIS THE SEASON! and it’s getting closer. COMMENT if You’re IN and I will send you a private message. Please don’t comment if you are not interested and aren’t willing to send the gift!

It might sound promising to many people reading it, but it really won’t do you much good. Chain letters are essentially pyramid schemes that involve funneling money from the bottom to top of the pyramid, benefiting those at the top and not many others. If you’re there from the get-go, your chances of making a good return increase somewhat. For everyone else, you’ll probably receive the equivalent of a lump of coal. And maybe worse.

Here in the U.S., these schemes tend to resemble gambling. That means you could easily end up breaking the law as stated on the U.S. Postal Inspectors website:

They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute.

Secret Sister data harvesting

So, not only will you miss out on getting a pile of free gifts, you could be dragged into some sort of dubious postal scam with mail fraud penalties instead. There’s also the risk of identity theft to consider.

Mail fraud scammers typically ask seniors for valuable pieces of personal information. You may end up handing them your name, address, phone number, alongside a variety of online profiles to tie them to. This could be all that an enterprising criminal needs to do some additional damage, especially if they persist in branching out from your profile to those of your friends.

No matter how appealing the prospect of easy free gifts sounds as 2018 slowly draws to a close, don’t fall for it. These types of antics have been around for a long time, and moving into the digital realm makes the consequences much more serious. So, if you want to receive surprise gifts at Christmas, we suggest you stick with Secret Santa at your retirement community. And give Secret Sister nothing more than a Return to Sender.

Stay tuned for our next article on how to avoid phone scams and unwanted solicitation coming in January.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, December, 2018. Some content was provided by and www.malwarebytes.com.

When It’s Time For Memory Care – How To Prepare For The Unthinkable

As our parents and loved ones get older, life throws them many a curve ball – downsizing to a smaller home, financial scams, and increasingly complex technological gadgets, just to name a few. But certainly nothing is nearly as disconcerting as the onslaught of health-related issues, including the sneakiest of all: dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Unlike many health problems that are discovered quite suddenly, dementia comes on gradually, often with signs that are confusing and easy to miss. What’s more, the symptoms most people associate with dementia – memory loss, confusion, and disorientation, etc. – are not the only indications that Alzheimer’s or dementia is taking hold. Other symptoms may include delusions, agitation, sleeplessness and extreme personality changes that can drastically impact an individual’s living situation.

Whether your family member is living independently or is already in a retirement or assisted-living community, you may realize she or he has specific needs that aren’t being met. That’s a good indication that it may be time to start investigating whether your loved one could benefit from a Memory Care facility – one that’s structured, licensed, and staffed to handle the increased demands of patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

In the first of our two-part series on Memory Care, here are the top signs that it may be time to move your loved one to a Memory Care facility:

1. You Worry About Their Safety

The number-one concern family members have about a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia is their physical safety, caregiving experts say. People with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and memory loss become confused, wander, and become agitated and even physically violent very easily. These problems can put them into all sorts of situations where they endanger their health and safety. When evaluating your loved one’s situation, ask yourself how often each day you worry about them and check on them. If your loved one has fallen, had a driving accident, or suffered an unexplained injury, these are additional red flags.

2. Health Care Needs Get Forgotten

Managing medications can be hard enough for the average person in their 50s. For someone with memory loss, failing to take prescribed medications on schedule — or taking too much — can be life-threatening. Dementia also affects your loved one’s ability to prepare and eat a nutritious diet. Your family member may forget that they’ve just eaten a meal and eat another one right after or skip meals altogether. You may notice food on the counter that hasn’t been properly put away or dirty dishes left in the refrigerator instead of the sink or dishwasher.

3. You Notice Unnecessary Purchases and Unusual Hoarding

Is your loved one’s coffee table cluttered with untouched magazines? Are the bathroom shelves stacked with unused bars of soap? Are there little packets of sugar piled up in the kitchen or dining room? Repeatedly purchasing or collecting multiples of the same item is often an early sign that someone’s mental faculties are declining. Your loved one might buy something at the store then not remember on the next shopping trip and buy it again. An unwillingness to throw things away (“because I might need that someday”) can also be a sign that their grip on reality is fading. And, of course, if your loved one is showing signs of hoarding, that’s an even more serious warning to seek a safer living situation.

4. Their World is Steadily Shrinking

Does it seem like you can’t take your mom out to eat, shop, or exercise because her behavior is so unpredictable. But at the same time, is she even more likely to be disruptive if she doesn’t have ways to be active and work out her energy? More often than not, the result is: she rarely goes out and is frequently restless and lonely. Welcome to the dilemma that leads many families to consider memory care. Professional memory care staff are trained to use distraction, redirection, and other techniques to keep residents calm and safe. Their programs are designed to provide activities and stimulation – including trips and outings – that can help your loved one be active without you or others turning to medication to calm her down. Another symptom of dementia is the fear of driving which isolates individuals even further. In a memory care facility your loved one will have supervised transportation whenever it’s needed.

5. Your Loved One Looks Strikingly Different

When you hug your family member, does she or he feel different? Weight changes, frailty, hunched posture, and moving with difficulty can all indicate that your loved one’s ability to navigate the world is declining. Forgetting to eat or gaining weight because of eating again and again, as mentioned before, can change appearances very rapidly. Hunched posture and moving slowly can be signs of uncertainty — does she know where she’s going?

6. Personal Hygiene is Getting Overlooked

Oddly enough, one of the strongest clues that your loved one is losing the ability to care for herself or himself may be right under your nose. Specifically, body odor if they have neglected to shower for a while. If your usually clean-shaven father starts sporting a few days of stubble like an actor, he may be forgetting to shave or even how to shave. Likewise, if your formerly well-coiffed mother begins to look shaggy, she may be missing or forgetting to make her regular hair appointments. Look for other changes in appearance as well, such as unwashed or wrinkled clothes, or maybe putting clothes on backwards or inside out.

7. Finances are Being Neglecting

Falling behind on financial matters is one of the first signs of dementia for many people. Look around. Is mail piling up unopened? Or worse, do you see creditor envelopes or collection notices? Look for unpaid bills and check to make sure that taxes and property taxes have been paid. If possible, examine bank statements for signs of unusual activity.

8. Your Loved One is a Victim of Fraud or a Scam

People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are easy targets for hucksters, scammers, and unscrupulous salespeople. If you notice that your loved one is making strange purchases, giving to new charities, or investing in questionable financial products, these can all indicate the onset of memory loss and other dementia-related issues. Some shady charities will approach seniors over and over again, especially if they detect a hint of dementia. If your loved one doesn’t remember donating, he or she may contribute each time out of the goodness of their heart.

9. Pay Special Attention to Fire and Water Damage

Whether your loved one lives independently or in senior living, keep a close eye on the physical environment as well as your loved one’s hands and arms for burn marks. Memory loss makes it much more likely that someone will leave a burner on or drop a dishtowel on top of a pilot light and not notice the smoke. If your loved one smokes cigarettes, check blankets, mattresses, floors and counters for scorch marks from dropped cigarette butts. Also look for stains, mold, and other signs of water damage that could indicate water running until a sink or bathtub overflows. Even spills that haven’t been wiped up suggest loss of attention. And if a garden or houseplants die because no one remembers to water them, that’s a telltale sign as well.

No matter what the signs or symptoms, a loved one’s memory loss is a very difficult topic to approach. Even if they frequently repeat themselves or forget your name, he or she might simply deny any problems or refuse to discuss the situation, as they almost never recognize the symptoms themselves. To complicate matters, your siblings might not see the same evidence and disagree about whether there is a problem or not.

If you feel it’s time to make a move, keep trying to have the conversation about memory support and ask your loved one’s doctor for a respected neutral opinion. Once you weigh the options and consider the pros and cons of home care vs. a Memory Care community, we think you’ll agree that Memory Care can provide your entire family with greater peace of mind.

Check back next week when our two-part series on Memory Care focuses on how to choose the right facility.

This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, July, 2018. Some information sourced from grandparents.com and seniorlivingresidences.com.

Helpful Advice to Make IRS Season Less Taxing

When asked about completing his income tax form, Albert Einstein once said, “This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher.”

It may be a little early to tell whether the government’s new tax reforms are too difficult for mathematicians and accountants to figure out, let alone average taxpayers like the rest of us. But one thing is for sure about one of the sure things in life: pretty much everyone has to face up to doing taxes within the next few weeks.
The Internal Revenue Service has begun accepting 2017 returns and set the deadline for filing to April 17. So, what happened to April 15, you ask? Well, for the second year in a row, April 15 falls on a weekend (Sunday) and April 16 is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C. While it’s nice to have two extra days to get the job done, there’s no time like the present to become familiar with some of the changes and top tax benefits that favor seniors and retirees. It’s definitely worth the extra effort:

  • Standard Deduction Amounts. For starters, according to the new tax plan, the standard deduction amounts will increase to $12,000 for all individuals, to $18,000 for heads of household, and to $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and surviving spouses. If you are 65 or over, blind or disabled, you can tack on an extra $1,300 to your standard deduction ($1,600 for unmarried taxpayers). But don’t get too excited just yet. While doubling the standard deduction is a good thing for most people, losing the personal exemption is not so good for others. In fact, a disabled senior couple living on Supplemental Security Income and a small pension could see their tax go up.
  • Medical and Dental Expenses. For the 2017 tax year, you will be able to deduct medical and dental expenses for amounts over 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Beginning next year, that amount will increase to a full 10% of your AGI. You can deduct health insurance premiums, including Medicare and long-term care insurance, prescription drugs, medical transportation, nursing home care and other out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
  • Retirement Plan Contributions. Anyone over the age of 50 is eligible to contribute up to $6,000 annually to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Traditional IRAs permit you to make tax-free contributions, but you must start taking withdrawals when you reach the age of 70½. You can also deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if you meet certain conditions.
  • Investment Expenses. Investing has additional benefits after you retire. Dividends and capital gains are taxed by the federal government at lower rates than regular income and are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes.
  • Charitable Contributions. Generally speaking, you can deduct Charitable Contributions made in 2017 up to 50% of your AGI if you itemize using Form 1040 or 1040A. You can also donate money from your Traditional IRA without paying taxes if your account custodian sends the donation directly to the charitable organization.

Of course, these are just a handful of the tax benefits available to seniors. The best way to get help and have your questions answered is to take advantage of free preparation and tax advice available in many areas. Life Enrichment Directors (LEDs) at some Sunshine Retirement communities are helping residents connect with these volunteer consultants. For example, Ashley Hurd, LED at Dunwoody Pines in Georgia has arranged to take residents to the local library, where AARP will provide free tax service on March 7 and 21 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.

For those who want to take the initiative themselves, here are several reliable alternatives to explore:

  • AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Beginning February 1 every year, IRS-certified volunteers offer free tax preparation assistance to low- and moderate-income taxpayers. You don’t have to be an AARP member and there’s no age requirement to get help. Check the Tax Aide Site Locator for locations or call 888-227-7669 toll-free.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). This federal grant program provides tax preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers to anyone 60 and older. Most sites are operated by the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. For more information, call 888-227-7669 toll-free or check online.
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Under another federal grant program, IRS-certified VITA volunteers provide tax-preparation services to older Americans. Generally, you must have an annual income below $54,000 to qualify. Call 211 to find a nearby VITA site. Online assistance is also available.
  • IRS Free File. If you’re comfortable doing your own taxes, you may be eligible to file federal tax returns online through IRS Free File software. Check the Free File Software Lookup Tool to find federal and state tax return options.
  • IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Help is available at local IRS offices that host this free service. Check the IRS site for locations and scheduling appointments.
  • H&R Block. Unless you are still taking mortgage interest deductions and/or have an annual taxable income of more than $100,000, you may be eligible to file a simple 1040EZ return and therefore be able to file your federal return for free with the help of one of the nation’s largest tax preparation providers. Visit H&R Block to see if you qualify.
  • Do-it-yourself tax software programs. Several for-profit tax assistance providers offer help through tax software packages and may file 1040EZ and 1040A returns and state returns for free. Check H&R Block’s More Zero, Intuit’s TurboTax, Credit Karma Tax, TaxAct, DIY Tax and TaxSlayer Simply Free.
  • A solid second opinion. If you’re not sure about filing your return by yourself, the National Society of Accountants says nearly 90% of their members offer free client consultation and can help you decide if it makes sense to seek professional help.

If all of these options still feel a little overwhelming, the best thing to do might just be finding a professional accountant in your area. Contact your local LED to help you get connected. Chances are, one of your fellow residents is already related to one.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, February, 2018.

Free Time Financial Supplements: Become an Online Juror

The U.S. justice system was designed to give everyone the right to a speedy trial, judged in part by a jury of peers. Jurors come from all walks of life, with all interests and backgrounds. Being on a jury panel is an exciting way to stay involved in your community and make a difference in the lives of your neighbors.

However, serving on a jury brings with it the negative connotations of seeking time away from work or activities, going to a local courtroom, sitting through the trial, and making a decision. This is no longer the case.

Thanks to the new technologies available online, you now have the opportunity right from your living room to take part in both mock and real trials.

 

Jury Duty Then and Now

Not much has changed in traditional jury duty throughout the years. Typically, jury duty begins with a letter from the court, summoning you to call a specific number every morning during a set period of time to see if there is a case you’ll need to hear.

If chosen, you’ll be placed as part of the juror pool, and can expect to sit (and wait) through the entire process – which can span from hours to months. After you’ve heard all of the information, facts, and evidence on the case, you will join the other jury members to make a decision.

Many people dread jury duty, but find that, at the end of the case, they’ve learned quite a bit about the legal system and enjoyed the experience. If this is something you’d like to do on a more regular basis, becoming an online juror is a great way to get involved, learn more about the justice system, and make a difference.

 

Jury Duty Online

Online jury duty allows you to give your time to a trial service and stay in your pajamas at home. The other responsibilities, however, are the same as those for individuals who are attending an in-person trial.

Once you apply online, the company you apply with will ask you some questions to learn more about you and the cases for which you might be eligible to evaluate. As a case comes up that you are eligible for, you’ll be sent the cases to review via e-mail and will submit your opinions electronically.

Some websites, like OnlineVerdict.com, will connect you with a panel of cases that allow you to choose the ones you want to review.

Many lawyers use mock juries online to help them prepare for cases that are going to court. You can help lawyers determine the type of person they need on an in-person jury to  end up with a favorable outcome for their client. Other lawyers want the feedback that would come from a prospective jury before the case goes to trial.

Lawyers spend their careers focused on jury selection, becoming experts at reading people and gauging their voting tendencies. To do this, they need practice, and usually turn to online jury websites with practice juries. The process is usually similar to that of an online jury.

Serving as an online juror takes about 30 minutes a case, a positive change from the hours many people spend with traditional jury duty.

Online jury duty consists of reading the case, questioning, and evidence, and allows you to give your responses. They typically give detailed instructions, and following them shows the lawyers and administrators that you are thorough — giving you a better chance of being asked back.

If the case doesn’t interest you, no problem. You have the freedom to turn down any cases that are offered to you.

If you choose to participate in online juries, don’t expect to get rich. However, once you have reviewed a case and submitted your opinions, you can expect to be paid for your time.

The salary isn’t extremely high. Online jurors are typically paid less than $50 per decision. Though this is not a fortune, it is enough to help out with some bills or provide you with fun money – especially if you serve regularly.

Individuals who are interested in the justice system might find the opportunity to serve on online juries during retirement to be the most rewarding.

From former law enforcement officers to  lawyers,  to retired judges, bailiffs, and other individuals who may merely follow the court system as a hobby, online jury duty is open to all. It can provide each interested individual with an opportunity to stay involved in their previous past times without the pressure or time commitment of serving in-person jury duty.

Since the online jurors took the necessary steps to apply to serve, there is usually less chance of being dismissed during a case.

At Sunshine Retirement Living, we believe that the best retirement is one filled with happiness, which is why we include the amenities you need to enjoy your retirement. Most of our communities have computer centers, so even if you don’t have computer access at home, you can still apply to be an online juror.

Our staff can help by showing you the best online jury websites, and safe ways to navigate the Internet.

To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Healthcare Resources

Quick Summary

Healthcare has a lot of moving parts, and it can sometimes be easy to get lost in the shuffle of everything that goes… on with your health. The time is now to take back your healthcare resources to better manage your healthcare needs.  Start by taking charge of your health care when it comes to your doctors, prescriptions, insurance, and other healthcare providers.  Learn more about how you can be more than just a silent partner that blindly follows what is said by healthcare providers, but how you can open a better dialogue to get the best care possible now and in the future.

Quick Links

SECTION I: Introduction to Managing Your Healthcare Resources

SECTION II: Become a Partner with Your Doctor

SECTION III: Manage Your Prescriptions Better

SECTION IV: Tackling Your Insurance Head On

SECTION V: Managing Other Healthcare Providers

SECTION VI: Pulling it All Together

 

SECTION I: Introduction to Managing Your Healthcare Resources

Patients are no longer silent partners in their healthcare decisions, and the time is now to start managing your healthcare resources.  You may be dealing with multiple doctors who prescribe multiple prescriptions, multiple hospitals, and other healthcare providers.  This can be a pretty frustrating process as it may seem that everyone is not always on the same page, and that could spell big trouble.  This is not even including the complicated world of insurance, and how frustrating the insurance company can be to talk to at times.  Although this may all seem rather intimidating to take charge of since you don’t have a medical degree, there are things that you can do to have a bigger role in what is going on with your body and care.  You are your own medical advocate!

 

Chapter 1: You Can Take Charge Of Your Health Care By Managing the Different Aspects 

Healthcare can be a very complex process, and because of the very technical nature of modern medicine, it can be a bit intimidating to deal with for anyone.  In the past, people were more willing to allow their doctors to tell them about their healthcare needs, but today, there are ways that people can become better partners in this process.  You can take charge of your health care to ensure that you start achieving a better outcome for your health and well-being.  You may have a few appointments a month or every few months where you come into contact with your doctor or other professional, so that means you are the one that will be providing your health care in monitoring your situation and taking provided meds.

You may have chronic conditions, and worry that if you speak up that you will upset the apple cart, but not speaking up can be detrimental.

Children also need to be ready to understand their parents’ healthcare situation in case of an emergency.  There may be times when they have to step up and step in as an advocate for you, and this means that you need to keep them more informed on what is happening with your current care.

 

SECTION II: Become a Partner with Your Doctor

No longer do patients need to just listen to their doctors. Opening a dialogue is vital to managing your health care.  Yes, some doctors are easier to speak with than others because of their personalities as some have that God complex, but voicing your concerns and opinions is vital to even these doctors.

 

Chapter 1: Evaluate Your Current Doctors to See if They Fit Your Current Needs

You are not stuck with your current doctors, even if it may feel that way sometimes.  Evaluate your current doctors, and determine if they are the right doctor for you.  Ask yourself if you feel comfortable speaking with your doctor, and if they treat you in the manner that allows you to be a partner in your health care.  If you are not happy with the way that your doctor is currently caring for you, it may be time to change things up.  Most insurance companies do require you to have a primary doctor on record that you use for general medicine, but you are allowed to change this doctor.  You may need to check over your plan to see what other doctors take your insurance, but it will be worth it to be more comfortable taking charge.

 

Chapter 2: Are You and Your Doctors on the Same Page with your Care?

Think of your body like a complex machine – like a car that needs everything working correctly to get a smooth ride.  When your car breaks down, you take it to a mechanic that usually can fix anything wrong with your engine or other car parts.  It would be nice if health care worked the same way, but the human body is even more complex.  This may mean that you have to visit more than one doctor because of how some doctors specialize in treating specific areas.

Going to multiple doctors may mean that you have multiple care plans with different medications and ways of attacking your health concerns.  You need to be sure that you are on the same page with your doctors on what each medicine does, and what the right treatment is for you.  Being on the same page will tell you what you need to do when you are under your own care.  This is important, but it is vital that your doctors are aware of each other and how they are treating you.  Some medicines that one doctor prescribes may have an interaction with another medication, or a treatment plan may not take into account another doctor’s treatment plan.  Make sure your doctors are aware of each other, and current treatments.

 

Chapter 3: You Should Investigate New Doctors If Necessary to Get the Care You Deserve

If you have decided that you are unhappy with your doctor because of your treatment or they are not working well with your other doctors to provide you the best care, it may be time to investigate new doctors.  Talk with your insurance company to get a list of local doctors in the specialty that you are looking for a new doctor to have, and then look over this list.  Learn about each doctor’s bedside manner, education, and other patient’s experience with the doctor.  At first, glance, take the time to see what information is available online about the doctors on your list.  There are websites dedicated to reviews on doctors that include information on them and other patient experiences with them.  Of course, reviews should not be your final deciding factor as sometimes those happiest with a doctor are not thinking about leaving a review, and those that are unhappy are more than willing to vent to anyone willing to listen.  You may need to schedule an appointment to speak briefly with the doctor to see for yourself what their bedside manner will be like since online searches can only go so far.

 

Chapter 4: Advice on How to Handle Your Doctor Appointments

Going to your doctor’s appointments may seem like a blur.  You arrive, wait, and get your short amount of time with the doctor before you are bustled out of the room for the next patient.  It’s easy to feel like a sheep being herded, but you can take charge of your visit.  Ask questions as you speak to the doctor.  If you tend to forget your questions, write them down to bring along.  This can be a good experience for your children to attend to learn more about the current care being received, things to look for, and what treatments may be necessary in the future.

The Internet is an amazing tool that has brought the world together, and there are plenty of online self-diagnostic tools when you are feeling poorly.  The key to remember is that they do not replace your doctor.  Sometimes, these tools can be misleading about what your symptoms may mean, and you may be doing more harm to your health by blinding following this information.  These tools can hold an important place when it comes to your doctor visit as you can use it as a conversation starter about your concerns.

 

Your doctors should be working together when prescribing your medications, and while you may not have control over having to take medications, you can manage them.  Some tools available to you include creating a prescription chart, finding ways to cut costs, and using your doctor and pharmacist effectively.

SECTION III: Manage Your Prescriptions Better

Chapter 1: Create a Prescription Chart for Your Records in Case of an Emergency and to Find any Discrepancies

You may be on several prescriptions that need to be taken following set directions, and often, these directions may differ.  This is a lot of important information to keep track of so creating a prescription chart can be a great idea.  You can also include your doctor’s information and any other important health information that may be necessary in the case of an emergency.

Not only will a prescription chart let you know when your prescriptions should be taken and how they are taken, but it is also a comprehensive list of what you are taking no matter which of your doctors prescribed the medicine to you.  You can take this information with you to all of your appointments for your doctors to review what you are taking.  Plus, this information is great for when there are any medical emergencies, and you are unable to remember exactly what you take, such as the name of the drug or the dosage.  This information can speak for you when you cannot or can inform your loved ones that can relay the information to your healthcare providers.

There are several ways that you can keep an organized list of your medications in a prescription chart.  You can create one online that you can print out.  There are several different types of templates to choose from when creating your personalized chart.  Some are even able in card form that will easily fit in your wallet or purse.

 

Chapter 2: Examine The Costs of Your Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug cost can be high, so you should examine the costs of the different medications that you take.  It can be a good idea to get a documented list of how much your medications cost with your current dosage and brand.  You should also contact your health insurance company to receive their formulary list as this can be used to help you to find ways to cut costs.  Your pharmacist and doctors are also great sources of information on ways you can get more bang for your buck when it comes to your prescriptions.  Your prescriptions are important or your doctor wouldn’t have prescribed them to you as they did, so skipping doses or cutting pills is not giving yourself the full benefit.

 

Chapter 3: Get Help at the Pharmacy from the Pharmacist

Your pharmacists might not seem like part of your healthcare team, but they certainly are, and should be used as such.  Often, people sign for the medications that have been prescribed to them, and never speak to the pharmacist about what they will be taking.  Your pharmacist is a fount of information that can let you know about the side effects, how to properly take your medications, proper storage, and other information that your doctor might not have let you know about when giving you the prescription.  Don’t be shy, but ask questions.  Part of their duties as a pharmacist is to help you with taking your medications the right way and keeping you informed.  They can even sometimes provide you with the right dosing tool.

One tip is to use the same pharmacy when possible as often the pharmacist is the first to spot when you may have drug interactions with prescriptions prescribed by different doctors.

 

Chapter 4: Speak with Your Doctors for Lowering Costs and Interactions

Your doctor should be your next stop when it comes to lowering the cost of the prescriptions you are taking and dealing with any potential interactions that the pharmacist may have identified.  That formulary list and prescription chart can come in handy when speaking with your doctor as they will let the doctor know what you are taking along with what similar drugs are covered by your insurance company under the formulary.  Talk to your doctor about using generics if there isn’t another brand similar enough that is covered by your insurance.

In some cases, doctors may also change the prescription to a higher dosage to let you cut the pills because often the price for the number of pills doesn’t change even if the pill’s dose is higher.  That means you can get twice the amount of doses, but at the same cost as before.  This may not work with all your prescriptions, but is a good idea for those that can be prescribed in this fashion.

Although it is a good idea to stick with the same pharmacy as noted above, shop around.  You may have a location that offers better prices on the prescriptions than other pharmacies.  For instance, if you have a warehouse club in your area, such as Costco, speak with their pharmacy about their prices.  Often, you can have your prescriptions filled with them at a lower cost without having to be a member of the club.  It never hurts to ask, and not asking might hurt your wallet.

 

SECTION IV: Tackling Your Insurance Head On

Insurance is one of those necessary evils that everyone needs to have to afford their health care but often is confusing or hard to deal with in life.  Talking with your insurance company may seem like an insurmountable task, but that is not the case.  It just takes a little persistence and a lot of patience.

 

Chapter 1: Evaluate Your Insurance to See If It Fits Your Current Needs

Not only should you evaluate your doctors, but you can also evaluate your insurance to make sure that it fits your current needs.  Think about if many of your prescriptions are not being covered, changes have been made to your coverage that you don’t like or other things you are unhappy about in general with your current plan.  These may all be signs that your insurance is just not good enough for you anymore, and that it’s time to shop around to find a better plan.  There are options with Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance companies, and veterans plans that you can evaluate to see which you qualify for and what will work best for your current situation.

 

Chapter 2: Research Other Insurance Companies Before Open Enrollment Periods

The first step that you need to take when evaluating new insurance options open to you is to research the different options and companies.  You may even find that your current insurance company has a different plan that will be a better fit for your current needs.  Some of the things that you will want to research include whether or not your current doctors take this new plan, what prescriptions will be covered under it, and how will your out of pocket costs change?  Open enrollment for 2016 has already ended, but getting a head start for next year can be advantageous because it gives you plenty of time to do extensive research.  Just be sure to ask whether or not the insurance company may be planning any changes before the new enrollment period.  Comparing plans is a great idea, and may give you a list of a few that you like just in case there are any of those pesky changes.

 

Chapter 3: Is Ancillary Insurance Right For You?

If your health insurance plan does not cover everything that you want, you can look into purchasing ancillary insurance if you don’t already have coverage in these areas.  Dental insurance is often a great idea because your health insurance company may only cover certain dental procedures. Dentures, partials or keeping up your own teeth can help your current well-being greatly.  Not being comfortable enough to eat can cause health problems all of its own.

The same is true of vision insurance.  Very few health insurance companies cover anything when it comes to needing new glasses or bifocals.  For those who have eye health problems like cataracts and glaucoma, you should speak with your healthcare insurance first about what is covered, and then try to fill any gaps with your ancillary vision insurance, if possible.

You may even want to look at other options in ancillary insurance, such as long-term care or home care to see if there are any plans that you qualify for that meet your needs now or protect yourself and your family in case you need it in the future.

 

Chapter 4: Tips on Dealing with your Insurance Company

You would probably rather go to the dentist than have to call your insurance company, especially if it is about a pending or denied claim.  There are some things that you can do that can greatly help you when it comes time to pick up the phone.  First, try to call when they are having a lower volume of callers.  Mondays are often pretty busy days since everyone has been waiting the weekend to finally call.  This may not be easy to determine for other days, but some companies will give you an idea through a phone message or message on your correspondence about the best times to call.

You should also have all your information with you when you make the call.  Keep your insurance card, any information about what you are calling about, and any documentation that they have sent you about your plan or claims.  This will make it easy to refer to when finally getting a live person to speak with about your issue.

When dealing with something that has been denied or some other issue, you should get all the information that you can about how to appeal the denial or deal with the issue.  This can help you to reverse that denial, and get your insurance to cover this item.

 

SECTION V: Managing Other Healthcare Providers

You may be using other healthcare providers, such as case workers or chiropractors, and these are resources you can manage, as well.  Talk with them about any questions or concerns that you may have about how they treat you and how their work interacts with what your other providers are doing for you.

 

Chapter 1: Evaluate Your Current Needs When it Comes to Other Healthcare Providers

As with doctors and insurance companies, make sure that these other healthcare providers are meeting your needs.  If they are not, think about moving to one that might be more appropriate for your needs.

For those that do not currently have a case manager or other healthcare providers, you may want to look into how these roles may benefit you in your life.  Many insurance companies want you to get the best care possible with preventative care and other programs because that may cut their expenses for you down the road.  To this end, they may assign you a case manager or case worker to help you with managing your health care needs.  Take advantage of this service if it is available to you because they will often help be your advocate and speak on your behalf with great experience dealing with the medical community.

 

Chapter 2: Does Your Insurance Cover Them?

Your current insurance coverage may impact what other healthcare providers you can have access to for your care, as they may be too cost prohibitive to afford without help.  Talk with your insurance company about your coverage to get the full picture of what you can do without help.

Then, it may be time for you to look into other sources of assistance.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help in affording the things that you need that may help to improve your quality of life.  Not only are their federal programs available to assist seniors, but there are also state and local programs that look to enrich the lives of seniors.  You may find that you can get meals delivered or a home health aide to visit several times a week through these types of programs where you are not responsible for bearing the cost.  Contact your local council of aging or other senior advocate groups in your area.

 

SECTION VI: Pulling it All Together

Your health is important, and the healthcare resources that you have access to can be managed by you.  It is up to you to be your own advocate, so the time is now to start pulling this information all together in a way that will help you to achieve a better health care outlook for yourself.

 

Chapter 1: Help Others Help You by Formulating a Plan For Managing Your Health Care and Keeping an Updated Medical File

It is wonderful that you have decided to do this for yourself and take charge of your health.  You also need to be able to help others help you by creating a plan that is going to inform them of your current health care needs and provide them an updated medical file.  You never know when this information may come in handy, so having it around is a good idea.  All of the research and tools discussed in this guide can be put together into a file for your reference and your loved ones.  It can be helpful to use online tools to create your file and keep a hard copy, but a folder or file box would work just as well.  Not only do you need to let others know about your health care plans, but you also need to let them know where they can find this information.  Emergencies and accidents are never planned, so being prepared is the best way to face them head on.

 

Chapter 2: A Special Note to Caregivers

The information provided in this guide is not only for seniors but also for their loved ones, especially those that help provide care to their parents or other relatives.  You can and should take a more active role in managing the health care of the seniors in your life.  Just because you are not the patient doesn’t mean that you don’t have any rights when it comes to the health and wellbeing of your loved one, especially if have been granted power of attorney.  If you feel that you are not getting the help you need, or are unsure about your rights with the privacy laws, HIPAA.

You should also note of keeping records as you may be the one that had an emergency or accident that causes another family member or friend to have to step up to the plate for providing care to senior loved ones.  Knowing prescription routines or when doctor appointments are coming up will be helpful information in just such a circumstance.

 

For more information on Sunshine Retirement Living and to speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

How to Have the Most Fun in Your Senior Years and Get Paid to Do It

Quick Summary

It’s possible to have fun working during your senior years and get paid. You may find that you’re tired of trying to find… ways to fill your days, or would rather get paid to be busy than just volunteering.  This is perfectly acceptable and applaudable.  Plus, for many seniors, that little bit of extra cash can really help retirement and pension funds last longer.  There are a wide variety of jobs that you can take on and enjoy doing from working at home as a pet sitter to becoming an usher at your local theater.

SECTION I: Introduction

SECTION II: Why Do You Need Money?

SECTION III: Ways to Make Money

SECTION IV: Finances and Taxes

SECTION V: Helpful Resources

SECTION VI: Scams

SECTION VII: Conclusion

SECTION I: Introduction

It can be wonderful to have extra money, and the joys of being able to work a fun and interesting job are always better while getting paid.  One of the best things about working as a senior today is that there are a lot of options for getting back into the workforce sector that fits your personality.  You can find things to do that will earn you a paycheck and involve with things you love to do anyways.

Chapter 1: Work Can Be Fun and Worthwhile

One worry that seniors have to deal with after retirement is money.  You may ask yourself if you saved enough money while you were working before retiring.  You may ask yourself how far your social security or pension will stretch.  You may even see holes in your budget today.  You may be wondering if you can work and make money even though you’re a senior.  You may find that retirement is a little more boring than you thought it would be, but this is one way that you can keep busy while bringing in some extra cash.  Yes, your age may seem like a stumbling block at first glance, but you as a senior have a lot to still offer society, so why not get paid for it?  Employers are often pretty grateful to hire seniors because it can be an economically smart thing to do.  Most seniors enjoy working a more flexible work schedule, have plenty of work and life experience, and bring a lot to the workplace.    

SECTION II: Why Do You Need Money?

It can be helpful to understand what you are looking to get out of a job and why you need the money.  This can help you to decide whether or not you need to find something that offers more hours or better stability.

Chapter 1: Senior Bill Struggles

As a senior, you’re probably familiar with at least one or more of the common bill struggles.  Seniors often have trouble with healthcare costs such as insurance or medications, housing costs, grocery costs, or any number of bills that come up.  A study in 2012 found that most seniors are facing a gap between the amount of money they have coming in and the amount of money that they need to pay out in a month.  There are more than 25 million Americans over the age of 60 living at or below the poverty line.  Planning for retirement is a complex process, and no one can plan for every circumstance that comes up in life.

SECTION III: Ways to Make Money

There are plenty of ways that you can make money in today’s economy that can be fun and pay a nice chunk of change.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started.  Be creative and keep your hobbies and personality in mind when deciding what you want to do.

Chapter 1: Tutoring and Mentoring

Tutoring can be a great way for seniors to make some extra money.  You’re able to put the knowledge that you’ve learned over the years to good use helping others while making a tidy sum.  Math, reading, and other skills are in high demand for tutors.  There are some tutoring companies available online that are always on the lookout for tutors to work for them with their clients.  In most instances, you’d be an independent contractor rather than an employee.  You can also think about starting your own tutoring business.  There is relatively little money needed to start this type of business, especially since there are ways to advertise for free online, so this may be the right choice for you.

Many of the typical mentoring programs that can be found online are looking more for mentors that are willing to donate their time as a volunteer rather than a way for seniors to make some additional money.  There is nothing wrong with volunteering your time if you think that this is a worthwhile cause, and you’re not worried about your budget.  There are a few organizations, such as the Senior Corps, that have some programs that provide a stipend to volunteers.  Look around locally.  There may be some places that offer payment in exchange for your knowledge.

Chapter 2: Write a Blog

Blogs are an inspired approach to earning money.  They can be on any topic you choose, and allow you to put your voice out there.  If you enjoy gardening, you can start a blog on gardening.  If you enjoy owning fish, that’s another idea for a blog.  Most blogging platforms offer a free blog to get started like Google’s Blogger or WordPress.  You think of a name, and then write posts to add to your blog that are interesting to read.  You can monetize your blog by putting advertisements up on your blog site that earns you money every time a visitor clicks on them through Google AdSense.  You can also become an affiliate of a retail store like Amazon where you can use their ads on your blog, and you can even refer your readers to your favorite products.  When a reader purchases a product using your link to it, you get paid.  There are a lot of beginners guides available online to starting your own blog, or you can find a book from your library.

Plus, there are some businesses out there looking for reviews and bloggers to spotlight their items.  You can earn yourself some free perks through your blog.  Some companies want you to dedicate a blog post to one of their items, and will provide you with a sample to help you write it to get more attention to their brand.  Prolific reviewers on Amazon are invited to join their review service where they are sent free or discounted items to try out and write a detailed review about for others.  There are other programs out there that also send you free items through Amazon in exchange for a review.  This is all legal, and you just have to mention that you received the item for free or for a discount in your review.  These companies with new products want people to buy them, and often, people wait until there are reviews before taking a chance on a new company or manufacturer.  This is a catch-22 for them, so it’s easier to give away a few to start creating some buzz, and then the sales process should be a little more fair for them.

Chapter 3: Become a Writer

Maybe blogging doesn’t interest you because you’d have to do your own marketing and other tasks to try to monetize your blog.  That’s okay, as you can still put your expertise to work for you as a writer.  You can think about writing fiction books, nonfiction books, your memoirs, or short stories, and try your hand at getting published.  There is still a big market for books and, even better, the Internet has made it easier than ever to self-publish.  There has never been a better time to be a writer because of the options available to you in case a publisher isn’t interested in what your manuscript has to say.

Not sure if you’re up to writing the next Great American Novel?  That’s okay, too.  There are plenty of companies that are hiring writers to create their website copy, product descriptions, catalogs, articles and more.  Check out job boards like Freelancer or Guru for freelance writing opportunities.  Look at magazines that you read or your local circulars to see if they are looking for writers.  Check out Craigslist or other forums for writers.  You never know what kinds of jobs might show up.  Be aware that competition can be steep for writing opportunities because there are a lot of people interested in them, but just keep trying.

Chapter 4: Explore the Internet

The Internet is a great source of inspiration for finding things to do online.  One type of opportunity that works for people with a flexible schedule is crowdsourcing websites.  These sites often allow you to log on, complete as many or as few tasks as you’d like during your session, and get paid.  mTurk is one popular option for these because it’s Amazon’s service.  Some of the kinds of tasks you can expect to find here are things like typing up the information on scanned business cards, answering survey questions, writing tasks, and more.  The great thing about these types of sites is that you can work as much or as little as you’d like to work when you want to work.  Although, there is never a guarantee that there will always be work available depending on the site you use.

Chapter 5: Share Your Knowledge as Freelancer

You can also think about offering your skills as a freelancer.  Think about what skills you have from the job you retired from, what hobbies you’re skilled at, and things you’d like to do to come up with ideas of what you can do as a freelancer.  Starting your own freelance business has never been easier with the Internet, so it’s a good time to get started.  Some potential ideas may be helping people organize their homes, building websites, being a business consultant, and being a motivational speaker.  The sky’s the limit when it comes to what you have to offer others as a freelancer.

Chapter 6: Think Outside the Box

You can think outside of the box when it comes to finding ways to make money and have fun at the same time.  Live in an area with a local theater?  Ushers are often paid money to help individuals find their seats, and get a chance to watch a live performance while working.  This can be a great idea for those with a love of the theater and people.  Other ideas in the same vein include becoming a docent or tour guide.  Check out your local museums, zoo, historical places, or historical society to see if they are hiring and put your love for history or nature to good use.  These are typically part-time, volunteer, or seasonal opportunities.

Don’t forget your local library.  This can be a great opportunity for a senior.  Most libraries don’t require a special degree to work as a page or checkout desk clerk.  Book lovers will enjoy the chance to work in a library surrounded by books and other people that share their passion for the written word.

You can even become a sitter for people’s babies, two-legged and four.  Being a babysitter or a pet sitter can be a lot of fun.  There are websites for babysitters and pet sitters that help you find clients that fit your needs.  Working with other seniors might be a good idea if that interests you.  There are meal programs, community centers, and more that may have open positions for part-time individuals that would welcome hiring a senior.  The key here is to check out their job openings and even call them to find out what they offer to their volunteers.

SECTION IV: Finances and Taxes

Working as a senior can be a lot of fun if you find something to do that you’re passionate about, but you should also be aware of finances and tax issues that can come from working as a senior.  It’s a good idea to look into this before starting your search to find the perfect money making opportunity to ensure that you won’t cause any problems with your benefits or services that you’re receiving as a senior.  You may find out that you need to work under a certain number of hours a week or make a certain amount of money before it impacts your benefits.  Knowing this information in advance can help you plan.

Chapter 1: Finances

You’re probably pretty familiar with your current finances, the amount of money you have coming in from your benefits, and how much your bills are each month.  If you don’t already write out a budget, it may be a good idea to do so now.  This will help you with the earlier section about why you need money.  It can give you a clear picture of your money situation as-is, and help you see how a new money-making opportunity will impact your future finances.  You can see how much you need to make your life more comfortable.

It may be helpful to speak with a professional about your finances.  This may be your attorney, accountant, or other financial experts.  Are you worried that you can’t afford to speak with these types of professionals?  That’s okay, as you may be able to get in touch with financial experts that work through organizations, such as the National Council on Aging, your community, or other local senior organizations.  The great thing about using all of the resources available to you is that you may be put in touch with organizations that can help you to improve your finances, even before starting your new endeavor of working after retirement.  Check out the section on helpful resources for more places to look towards for help.

Chapter 2: Taxes

No one likes thinking about taxes, but there can be some tax consequences for you when you start working again.  The Internal Revenue Service has created a booklet that is specifically for seniors.  This can be a great starting point for answering your senior tax questions.  Any questions you’re still wondering about should be addressed by talking with your accountant or other tax professional.

SECTION V: Helpful Resources

There are some great resources available to seniors that want to work in fun positions and get paid to do it.  You may not even realize how powerful these resources can be until you look into what they have to offer you.

Chapter 1: Your Local Library

Your local library is probably one of the best resources for you to tap.  Your retirement community may have a great library, but your local library is worth a second glance.  You are probably aware already that your library is full of books, DVDs, and magazines, but many libraries offer so much more.  Your local library may have computers with the Internet if you don’t have access to them anywhere else.  Even better, your local library may offer a variety of classes that are free or low cost to take.  These classes usually cover things like resumes, using computers, and other skills that can help you with your idea of finding ways to make money in your senior years.  These classes can be a great way to brush off your skills if you haven’t used a computer in a while, or gain some new ones if you’re not as computer savvy as you’d like to be.  Computer skills can be helpful because the Internet is your next helpful resource.

Chapter 2: The Internet

The Internet is a vast source of information when it comes to finding interesting and unique ways to make money.  In the past, most of what you could’ve found online for money making opportunities were scams, but today more companies realize the benefits of using employees and contractors that telecommute.  While other companies have realized that they can make money by becoming a middleman that helps businesses or people looking to make money find clients, such as some of the dog sitting companies available today.  Plus, you can do job searches online if you’re looking for something that will get you out of the house while you work.

Not only is the Internet a great source for finding companies to work for, but it’s also a great resource for information on just about any topic imaginable.  There are websites devoted to just about anything you’re looking for, including classes on computer skills if they aren’t available through your local library.  If you’re able to access the Internet at your library, you can ask for assistance with your first few searches.  Most librarians are versed with helping computer newbies, and some may even know of a few websites to check out based on your topic or can point you in the direction of a few books that can get you up to speed.  The key here is being willing to ask for help when you need it.

A final way that the Internet is a perfect source for you is that if you’ve decided to go into business for yourself or run a blog, you can use it for marketing your services or monetizing your blog.  Most people today don’t reach for the yellow pages when they’re doing a search for a product or service they need; they turn to the Internet.  It can be your ally in finding customers or readers that are interested in your blog.

Chapter 3: Resources at Sunshine Retirement Living Communities

You may also have some great resources at Sunshine Retirement Living Communities.  The community programs that are offered are something that you may not have been interested in before, but you should check them out.  For instance, the Body Wellness Program is probably worth checking out as it may help you with adjusting to going back to work.  Be sure to ask if there are any additional programs or activities that you can take advantage of that can be beneficial to you finding a way to make some money during your senior years.  The staff is always ready to help in any way that they can.

SECTION VI: Scams

You’ve probably already worried about the threat of scams.  There are people out there that are looking to take advantage of people that want to work, especially those that want to use the Internet as a primary source of employment or are going through the process of seeking a job.  Knowing how to spot these scams can help you to feel more comfortable with your efforts.

Chapter 1: Do Your Research!  Scammers Exist

The main thing to remember here is that you should do your research before giving out your personal information or clicking on links in emails that seem suspicious.  The adage of something being too good to be true is a good phrase to keep in mind while evaluating your options.  Be skeptical until you can find reason to put your faith into a company.  If a website is offering you a way to earn a high dollar amount in exchange for very little work, then it’s probably a scam.

If a company is requiring you to pay to work for them, there is a chance that it’s a legitimate company, but more than likely it’s a scam.  It can be helpful to evaluate what the company says the payment is for, and the overall evidence about the company.  For instance, there are some companies that hire people to work in their telecommute call centers and require a background check.  Some ask that you pay for this yourself, and you may get the money back after being hired.  If you’re not comfortable with giving out your credit card number, skip the company and move on.  There are plenty available out there that don’t require payment upfront.

A company that contacts you that wants you to cash a check or act as their shipper is also a red flag.  These companies are pretty well-known scams, but keep popping up.  The only time you should give out your bank information for direct deposit or cash a check is when it comes from a known source, and you’ve already done work for them.  These companies may try to trick you by using a real company name, but often there will be grammar errors and misspellings in the email, the email addresses don’t match between who sent it and whom they want you to reply to, the name on the email account may not match the email address, and so on.  When in doubt, do a search.  If nothing comes up good or bad, you should probably skip it.

The key here is to be vigilant.  It can be easy to be taken in by a scam if you’re not careful with your search to find ways to make money.  Do your homework about any company you’re interested in working with before applying or replying to an email.  When in doubt, ask someone else their opinion on it.

SECTION VII: Conclusion

Seniors are able to enjoy their golden years by having fun and getting paid to do so.  Why not find ways that you can add to your income doing something that you enjoy doing?

Chapter 1: Putting It All Together

Now’s the time to start putting this all together to create the perfect plan for you.  Think about what types of jobs you’d like to be involved with now that you’re trying to bring in some extra cash.  What are you passionate about and what interests you?  This will help you in your search to find something fun to make some money.  Be sure to take advantage of any resources available to you to help you on your way.  Most of all, have fun with it.

To speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members, click here today.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Wise and Wonderful: Five Unique Ways for Seniors to Find Holistic Health and Happiness

When people talk about being healthy, they are usually just talking about being free of symptoms.  But, if you step back and look at a… holistic definition of health, it’s about a whole lot more than just being disease and illness free.  Being healthy is about living a well-rounded lifestyle.  It is, of course, about living free from the burdens of symptoms and ailments, but it’s also about being happy. Interestingly enough, the more you focus on happiness, the more traditional metrics of healthiness tend to fall into place.

Researchers have found that individuals who enjoy life and are happy are also fitter and healthier in old age. Conversely, unhappy people were up to twice as likely to suffer from serious health problems like heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.  So, if you want to age well and stay healthy, you should be thinking about more than your next check-up.  You should be actively pursuing lifestyle choices that lead to happiness.  Here are five great ways for seniors to find happiness, and increase their overall health and well-being in the process.

Part 1: Pet Ownership Increases the Quality of Life Among Seniors

Part 2: Massage Can Increase Happiness and Health in Seniors

Part 3: Being in a Healthy Relationship Improves Overall Health for Seniors

Part 4: Spending Time With Children Improves Senior’s Health

Part 5: Music Therapy: A Unique Aide to Senior Health

Part 1: Pet Ownership Increases the Quality of Life Among Seniors

Senior Lady Loves Her Dog

Anyone who has ever owned a pet can tell you that a special feeling of connection and companionship can develop out of pet relationships.  Having a pet for a companion leads to feelings of love and security since pets can love so unconditionally and provide so much warmth to pet owners lives when doing so. Research shows that, for seniors, pet ownership has a healing effect that goes beyond just providing emotional comfort.

Pet Owners Are Happier and Healthier Than the General Population

Returning to our theme of happiness, research shows that people who own pets are, on average, happier and healthier than the general population.  While the emotional benefits of owning a pet are relatively straightforward, pets contributed to higher health metrics across many fields.  In addition to heightened self-esteem, pet owners tend to be more physically fit, less lonely, and more extroverted than individuals who do not own pets, according to the Allen McConnell of Miami University in Ohio. Digging into the specific health benefits paints just as positive of a picture.

Pet ownership is linked to positive health outcomes across a wide variety of metrics.  According to a survey by the Australian National Heart Foundation, pet owners have been shown to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels than those who do not own pets.  Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have found that individuals on blood pressure medication are less likely to have spikes in blood pressure as a response to outside stimulus when they are pet owners.  The American Heart Association has even found a correlation between owning a dog and having a lowered chance of risk for heart failure and heart disease.

All of these health benefits and more are tied to the fact that pets help reduce stress levels of pet owners.  Owning a pet leads to higher levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, which your body produces when you feel attached to something that is important to you.  This chemical release leads to lowered cortisol levels, which has an enormous positive effect on all of the health areas listed above and many more.  In short, pets make people happy.  Happier people are less stressed and tend to be healthier overall. When looking to seniors specifically, these positive health benefits can have a profound effect on quality of life.

Pet Ownership Improves Quality of Life for Seniors

Seniors can benefit from all of the positive effects that pets can have on the health of all pet owners, but there are more specific ways that older pet owners can benefit from a furry companion.  For starters, seniors are unfortunately more likely to suffer from some of the specific health issues mentioned above that pets can help to improve, like heart disease.  But, beyond those areas, seniors are especially likely to benefit from some of the psychological supports that a pet can bring to their life.

Many seniors living on their own or in assisted living facilities struggle with loneliness and the depression that arises from being alone. Pets can help confront those emotional issues head-on by providing companionship that is always there.  Additionally, pets can help seniors become more social with other retired individuals in their home or area, as the joys that a pet can provide are contagious.  Common areas and rec centers can turn from boring hangouts to sunny social hubs when a pet is thrown into the mix, helping seniors branch out and form connections with a pet’s encouragement.

These psychological benefits of companionship, from decreased feelings of loneliness and depression to increased feelings of connectivity, all help to further decrease stress levels even more – providing a positive feedback loop that continues to deliver increasing health benefits.  By decreasing stress, providing unwavering love and companionship, and bringing a constant, positive source of happiness to seniors’ lives, pets are a perfect example of the link between happiness and health.  Pets make seniors happy, which can help with a wide range of health outcomes, further increasing happiness and boosting overall quality of life.

Picking the Right Pet for Seniors

It is important to understand that all of these health and happiness benefits will only be present if seniors choose the right pet for them.  In general, seniors may not be the best fit for younger pets like newborn puppies, since training a young pet can add a whole lot of stress to a pet owner’s life.  Additionally, seniors may not benefit from some specialty pets that have expensive upkeep, since most retired people are living on a tight budget.

One great solution for seniors is to adopt older pets, who can share retirement with their elder owners.  Older cats and dogs that are already trained and well-mannered provide all of the benefits of great companionship without a lot of the stressors of behavioral issues.  And, older dogs usually don’t need quite as much exercise, and may be more manageable for seniors for that reason as well.  In general, when picking a pet for a senior owner, just be honest about how much time and energy the older pet owner has to dedicate to their pet, what they are capable of doing to keep their pet happy on a daily basis, and any financial constraints that may make owning some pets difficult.  As long as you keep those factors in mind when choosing a pet, pet ownership can be an incredible joy for seniors, and can provide some great health benefits in the process.

Part 2: Massage Can Increase Happiness and Health in Seniors

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Many people in the U.S. trust in massage for its healing properties, making massage therapy one of the most popular forms of alternative medicine there is.  Massage has many health-boosting and stress-relieving benefits, which can be particularly useful to seniors.  Here’s a look at some of the health-boosting effects of massage therapy, and how seniors can get the most out of massage to increase their happiness and overall health.

The Health Benefits of Massage and Touch

For starters, massages, of course, make you “feel good” while receiving them.  But, according to studies, the health benefits go beyond just a nice feeling.  Deep tissue massages have even been shown to boost immune system response by heightening white blood cell levels among massage patients.  However, deep tissue massage may be dangerous for some seniors with sensitive muscles and outstanding pain issues.  Luckily, there are lots of health benefits related to other kinds of massage as well.

Many of massage’s health benefits stem from the healing power of touch, which has been shown to have positive physical and psychological effects.  Even receiving lighter massages can help clenched muscles relax, which has a huge number of positive side effects.  Racing hearts can slow and heightened blood pressure levels can drop just from receiving even a light massage. The answer lies in touch. It’s not necessarily all about getting those deep knots out of deep tissues, but just about having a therapeutic hand provide an appropriate-pressured massage.

The touch that’s passed on in a massage helps decrease cortisol levels, which has a positive effect on the body in a wide number of ways.  For starters, lower cortisol levels help the immune system respond to infections better and help keep white blood cell counts high. The decrease in stress that comes with the touch of a massage has other health benefits, like lowered blood pressure, which get passed on even in lighter massage variations.  While a deep tissue massage may not be a safe bet for some seniors, there are a lot of others forms of massage out there that can provide some great health benefits.

Massage for Seniors

One great massage variation that seniors can benefit from, and unlock the positive benefits of therapeutic touch without the safety issues relating to deep tissue massage, is foot massage.  Foot massage has been practiced in many cultures for millennia and has been shown to have some great health benefits.  Since your feet build up so much pressure from carrying around your body all day, unclenching the muscles and tendons in your feet can have huge relaxation effects that help lower stress.  Additionally, foot massage has been linked to increased circulation.  Lastly, a lot of tension is stored in the feet, and relieving this pressure can help relax the body overall.

Another massage option that can be great for seniors and provide some unique health benefits is hand massage.  Especially if you suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other chronic hand pain issues, receiving a hand massage can help improve your hand, wrist, and finger mobility and range of motion.  Like foot massages, relieving pain from the tendons and tissues of the hand helps improve circulation and leads to relaxation, which has positive effects all over the body.  Plus, the immediate pain relief that a hand massage can provide is a big benefit in itself, as any chronic pain sufferer will tell you that any relief from arthritis or another source of hand pain is invaluable.

Massage Specifically Linked to Health Improvement in Aging Adults

While all of the health benefits of massage mentioned above apply to older individuals and can be very helpful in maintaining an overall good quality of life, there are specific links that show that massage is especially helpful for the health of seniors in particular.  For one, seniors are unfortunately more likely to suffer from chronic pain, and the pain relief effects of a message can be a great way to help cope with chronic muscle soreness and stiffness.

The relief of pain has a big, positive effect on overall health, as elders who experience relief from chronic pain are able to sleep better, keep up their daily routines better, and live more active lifestyles free of pain.  Frequent massages can even help improve posture and balance, as once muscles are unclenched and get the chance to relax, seniors can walk more easily and retain higher mobility.  An interesting side effect of this better posture is that seniors who receive messages may be at lower risk of falling and injuring themselves, since being able to walk and move with good posture decreases the likelihood of balance-related falls.

Plus, the psychological effects of receiving a therapeutic touch can be very beneficial for seniors that feel disconnected and lonely.  The touch of a massage decreases stress levels and helps the body relax overall, but can also be a great emotional support, allowing seniors to feel a connection.  Seniors are especially prone to chronic pain and mobility issues, so massage is especially useful in a physiological sense.  But, it is helpful in reducing stress, too. Feeling touch decreases stress levels.  Again, seniors may not be suited for deep tissue style massages, but so many of the benefits of massage are present in other types too, so seniors can still enjoy them safely.

Part 3: Being in a Healthy Relationship Improves Overall Health for Seniors

Senior Couple Putting On In Line Skates In Park

The search for companionship and romantic love is present in just about everyone, and it isn’t usually something that goes away with age.  Seniors can become invested in healthy, mutually beneficial, joy-filled relationships in their retirement, even if pain and heartbreak have happened in the past. Beyond just a nice feeling of companionship and the joys of falling in love, being in a healthy relationship can have some big positive health effects for seniors.  Here’s a look at some of these benefits, and how they can apply specifically to elders and people in relationships later in life.

The Health Benefits of Social Connections

As prestigious of an institution as Harvard University has recognized that where relationships are concerned, “good connections can improve health and increase longevity.”  All of the research out there shows that having strong social connections can be just as important of a factor in overall health as adequate sleep and a good diet.  On the other hand, lack of social connections can lead to faster cognitive decline later in life, and lead to other health issues that could be prevented through the development of healthy relationships.

Being socially connected to someone closely helps lower stress levels, which, as we have mentioned, has famia huge number of positive health effects from decreased risk of stroke to lowered blood pressure to a decreased risk of complications from heart disease.  Being socially connected to someone and caring for them actually helps the body produce stress decreasing hormones.  Even more interesting, Harvard notes that the quality of relationships matters, too.  In other words, the closer you are to someone and the more closely connected you feel, the better the health benefits are.  This is why romantic relationships can have such a powerful effect on health.

“Married People Live Longer”

While this saying is commonly passed around, research shows that there is indeed some truth to the old axiom; people in marriages DO live longer and are healthier later in life than single elders. A look at why this is the case highlights some of the health benefits that being in a caring, romantic relationship can provide, even if the relationship doesn’t lead to marriage.

For one, having someone who cares about you and is around all of the time can be great positive reinforcement to engage in healthy habits that you already knew were important, but may be more likely to abandon while in solitude.  A significant other will ideally remind you to eat healthy, have one less drink at the end of the day, and get enough sleep.  It’s easy to forget about these things or put them on the back burner if you are alone, but all of these small habits that can add up to big health consequences are important to stay on top of. When you have a romantic partner around to help remind you to take your own health seriously and keep up with healthy habits, it goes a long way towards overall health.

But, the health benefits of healthy relationships go beyond just positive reinforcement.  Having a reliable partner nearby to support you when you are feeling down can be extremely helpful in avoiding emotional issues and depression. The stress-reducing effect of companionship cannot be overstated, and again has a huge number of positive effects on overall health.

Of course, these positive health benefits only present themselves in HEALTHY relationships.  Unhealthy relationships conversely can have a big negative effect on health, which presents itself differently in different people.  Often, men in unhealthy and unhappy relationships have been shown to be at higher risk of depression, and more frequently susceptible to alcohol and other substance abuse. Both women and men are susceptible to suffering from obesity and stress-induced hypertension when in unhappy relationships.  Healthy relationships are hugely beneficial to overall health, but unhappy ones can be just as detrimental.

Healthy Relationships Can Be Especially Beneficial to Seniors

Seniors living in nursing homes or living on their own after retiring tend to suffer from a lack of opportunities to be social and interact with others, which often leads to feelings of loneliness and depression. As feelings of isolation increase, health consequences present themselves, from the psychological dangers of depression to the real physical ones associated with spending all of your time alone as an elder.

Being in a romantic relationship means that all of the benefits of social connection will be readily and reliably yours and that you will always have someone to turn to for companionship.  For elders, these benefits are far ranging, from potentially decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s to lowering blood pressure, to decreasing chances of heart disease.  Being in a romantic relationship as an elder means that you won’t have to struggle to find connections; you will have a meaningful one to rely on.  Romantic relationships can be the best way to fight off feelings of being alone and isolated, and can provide all of the benefits of social connection but to an even higher degree.

If you are a senior wondering if it’s worth it to jump back into a romantic relationship, think of all of the health and happiness benefits that being in one can provide. Realize that people find love all the time, no matter their age.  It’s never too late to find a companion that can help you beat off depression and loneliness. If you are a senior dealing with these issues, putting yourself out there and looking for romantic love again can be a powerful way to improve your quality of life.

Part 4: Spending Time With Children Improves Senior’s Health

Grandpa with little boy using electronic tablet

Whether it’s at a scheduled event or just a casual visit, spending time with family has a huge positive effect on senior health and happiness.  Being surrounded by their children and their children’s children can make any elder feel good emotionally, and these emotional benefits translate into real health benefits.  Here’s why it’s so important for seniors to spend as much time with their children and family as possible.

The Health Benefits of Relationships Don’t Stop at Romantic Relationships

All of the benefits that we covered in the section above can be particularly strong in romantic relationships, but they by no means stop there.  In fact, all healthy relationships can provide some direct health benefits and family relationships are no exception.  Isolation has huge negative effects on health, leading to depression and other emotional issues. Having close family connections can help fight off these feelings and the associated negative health consequences in seniors.

Having any form of social connection provides a ton of health benefits as discussed above, mostly centered around the decreased stress levels and the likelihood of depression that comes along with not being connected to someone else.  Studies have shown that adults in healthy relationships live on average 3.7 years longer than adults who tend to isolate themselves. As a senior, family relationships are some of the healthiest and most rewarding that you can foster.

A family, with parents, children and grandparents, walk through park

Healthy Family Relationships Lead to Overall Health

Family ties can be a healthy source of love, emotional support and security, and emotional protection.  Family relationships are unique and unique in the connections they provide. The closeness of family love is impossible to reproduce and has some specific and powerful benefits for elders in quite a few different areas.

Elders often feel that their family is their legacy, and as thoughts of mortality and the end of life loom, getting reassured that their happy family will continue on can help set elder’s minds at ease.  Plus, frequent contact with family members can help elders feel like they still provide value to the family unit and are still important, which helps fight off feelings of loneliness and depression.  The enjoyment that’s brought on by family visits and spending time with children helps fight stress as well.

For many elders, it can be hard to find people to connect to, and feelings of loneliness and isolation stem from an inability to make new friends. With the importance of social connections being so critical, it’s important for seniors to interact with others no matter who they are. This is where the family can come in as a crucial resource. When elders know that family members will always be there for them and are available to socialize and spend time together often, they won’t feel as lonely – even if they have trouble meeting new people. The effect that this can have on elders, especially living in nursing homes, is huge and has been tested out in countless studies.  When elders get the chance to spend time with their children and family, they are happier, and happiness is crucially important to health.

Dealing With Issues of Family Availability

For many elders, it can be hard to find a time when children and other family members are available for visits. This feeling that their family can’t make time for them can lead to additional depression and feelings of loneliness.  But, if you are an elder dealing with loneliness and frustrated that your family doesn’t visit enough, remember that even if they care a lot and are trying hard to make more time, it can be difficult to do so. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be vocal about your needs and let your children and family know that you would like to spend more time with them.  Often, family members get so wrapped up in their personal lives that the frequency of their visits gets forgotten. As an elder, speaking up and saying that you want to spend more time with your family can help them realize that they need to make themselves more available.

As a child of a senior, you NEED to do your best to make yourself available for connection.  Reach out to your parent or grandparent and let them know that they are still important.  Teach them how to use technology to feel more connected to their family and friends. Make sure that visits are as frequent as you can make them.  There are huge advantages tied to elders maintaining regular contact with those they care about. As a young family member, it’s your responsibility to make sure that that’s a possibility.

Overall, it can be hard for some families to spend time with elders, and retired seniors should do their best to be understanding of the limitations placed upon their families where visitation is concerned.  But, when families can spend time with seniors, there are a lot of health benefits conferred, as stress levels decrease and feelings of depression caused by isolation wane.  As a senior, do as much as you can to spend as much time as possible with your family. Family relationships are unlike any other. Your family can be a great resource that you can count on to be loving no matter what.  As a child or young family member of an elder, do everything you can to spend time with them.  Doing so could improve their overall health!

Part 5: Music Therapy: A Unique Aide to Senior Health

Music for all ages. Portrait of senior man in headphones listening

Many of the options to help seniors achieve healthy lifestyles mentioned above are somewhat conventional, and some seniors may be following all of the advice already offered here and still be unhappy or unhealthy. This is why so many elders look for other options and explore everything out there to try to find something that makes them happy and keeps them healthy.  Music therapy is just such an option, but one that can provide a lot of health benefits for elders.

What is Music Therapy? 

For starters, it’s important to approach music therapy as complementary medicine. Despite the health benefits it can provide and the term therapy in its title, music therapy shouldn’t replace traditional psychological support or any other types of treatment.  Instead, music therapy can go a long way towards aiding elders who are already seeking help and already consulting a therapist.

Music therapy can be applied by trained experts to meet a wide range of goals, but typically it is best used in support of elders in a few specific ways.  Through introducing music into therapy sessions, therapists can help control some direct physical outcomes in older patients, and help them do things like reach a relaxed, even breathing pattern, reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and relax in general.  Additionally, music therapy can be helpful in balancing emotions and even sharpening mental function.  Since it has so many applications and uses, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact definition of music therapy, but it’s helpful to remember that it can have a lot of health benefits as long as it is conducted by a trained professional.

The Healing Effects of Music Therapy

Music has a very specific triggering effect on the brain, and professionals have been able to capitalize on this to use music therapy to treat some long-term brain injuries.  Even in cases where individuals have lost speech abilities, music has been able to trigger some speech recognition and eventually help those who suffer from brain injuries regain full speech.  A great and inspiring high-profile example is Congresswoman Gabby Gifford.  After Gifford suffered a brain injury as the result of a gunshot wound, she couldn’t speak in sentences at all, but she could sing.  Her speech therapist sung “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with Gifford until she regained enough confidence and ability to start forming full sentences again.

Even for individuals who don’t suffer from injuries as serious as Congresswoman Gabby Gifford’s, music can be a powerful healing force.  “Entrainment” is a concept being studied now. It describes the phenomenon in which the rhythms of our bodies can synch up with rhythms in music we are listening to.  Through entrainment, people with high anxiety and stress levels can achieve physical and relaxation through listening to relaxing music.  People with focus issues can achieve heightened focus by listening to music at a moderate tempo without too many distracting elements.  No matter what affliction a person suffers, the healing power of music can be of some help. This is true for elders with emotional and psychological issues too.

Music Therapy for Elders

For seniors suffering from memory loss issues, music therapy can be an invaluable tool to regain some memory function.  Whereas the brain forgets words and names and places easily, melodies are harder to forget and stick with people.  By playing a song that a person associates with a time and place, music therapists can trigger some recall in patients, even those suffering from memory loss due to advanced dementia.  Music brings patients back to where they were when they heard the song and had a significant experience, helping them regain other memories along the way.

For elders who have suffered a stroke, music therapy can help with speech recovery, somewhat like Congresswoman Gifford’s example.  Stroke victims are more able to form speech patterns around songs they have sung many times than create sentences, and many have found that singing along with a familiar song is the first time they are able to speak again at all.  As stroke victims regain their confidence and are more able to recognize speech patterns after listening to music and singing, they can translate these skills into conversational speech as well, and on average have much faster speech recovery times than victims who don’t listen to music.

Finally, professional therapists have even been able to use music therapy to relieve the symptoms of intense grief.  Grief counselors use the power of entrainment to help those suffering from grief-induced anxiety reach a more healthy cardiovascular rhythm, which, in turn, reduces stress.  Creating a compilation CD of pleasant songs that bring a grieving person back to happy times in their lives, or calming songs to help maintain healthier breathing patterns and reduce stress, can help those who suffer from intense grief manage their symptoms long after a therapy session is over.

Music Therapy is Just One Example of Non-Conventional Routes to Happiness

Music therapy is a very cutting edge and exciting area, with a lot of potential to relieve the symptoms and aid the recovery for individuals experiencing everything from dementia to speech loss.  But, it isn’t the only non-conventional route to happiness out there, or the only thing that people facing these issues can turn to. That being said, music therapy has been very helpful for a lot of people, and can help seniors who are just stressed out or grieving in addition to those who suffer the effects of the illnesses or injuries mentioned above.

Conclusion: You Can’t Separate Health from Happiness

Happy conversation

All of the ideas above can help increase the health of seniors.  But, they do so by increasing happiness as well.  When you think about living a healthy life, you have to consider a lot more than just living without the burden of disease.  The science is there and shows conclusively that the happier that you are, especially in old age, the healthier you will be.  Not just healthy in a holistic sense of finding balance, but “healthy” in the conventional definition that we urge you to move away from.  Happy seniors have better health outcomes along a wide range of issues, from heart disease to depression.  You can’t divorce the two, and you need to think about happiness when you talk about health and consider the pursuit of happiness as an important factor in living a healthy life.

As a senior looking for ways to be healthy, start with the ideas we mentioned above.  Owning a pet decreases feelings of loneliness, and increases overall happiness.  Massage therapy and the power of touch can help create feelings of connection and reduce stress.  Pursuing a romantic relationship can help seniors feel like there is always someone there.  Re-investing in family relationships can produce unique benefits, since family is bonded in a unique way. Music therapy can treat a wide range of maladies and help seniors find happiness.  But, don’t stop there.  Keep searching for the things that make you happy, and be honest with yourself if you aren’t finding happiness in what you are doing.  The more time you put into trying to live a happy life, the better. Health will follow.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living

Wise and Wonderful: How to Find Even More Sunshine and Health in Your Retirement

 

Why People Choose To Retire in Sunshine States

Senior couple on country bike ride

Many seniors seek out a warm climate in which to relocate during retirement. They look forward to spending their golden years focused on hobbies, traveling, and especially enjoying their grandchildren. Selecting the ideal location for these pursuits requires a great deal of planning, primarily because of the costs associated with relocating and creating a new household budget in the chosen community. Another consideration is whether you plan to continue working, which may necessitate choosing an area where the unemployment rate is low and the economy is rising.

Wherever you consider moving, make sure there is quality healthcare to accommodate your needs. In addition, consider the proximity of activities like fishing or golfing, to maximize your long-awaited recreational time. To make the best use of your leisure time, set your sights on locations that provide more of your chosen activities.

Some people select scenic areas like wine country or high in the mountains. Others choose to relocate to towns with historical significance, or to enjoy simple country living. Either way, the first step is to identify your retirement goal, and then design a plan to make that dream come true. Find a place that fits both your lifestyle and your budget, so that your retirement years are truly enjoyable.

Many people choose to retire in sunshine states for several reasons. For those living in states with harsh winters, the reason to move is simple. Not only does cold winter weather become harder to bear as time goes on, it may actually exacerbate certain health conditions. Those long winter months also limit the ability to enjoy outdoor recreation. Throughout your life, you may have enjoyed experiencing four individual seasons and the varying climate conditions each season brings. But as time progresses and the aging process continues, dealing with bitter winter weather may have lost its appeal.
Warmer states not only offer an endless supply of recreational activities but, often times, incredible sightseeing opportunities, as well. Although states with colder climates boast beautiful landscapes, the harsh weather may deter you from participating in outdoor activities. If your goal is to experience more time outdoors, a better decision is to choose a state that allows you to comfortably enjoy the seasons throughout the year.

Popular States to Choose for Retirement

Rear view of a senior man and woman couple walking arms around each other on a deserted tropical beach with bright clear blue sky

During the research phase before retirement, you will come across many “best and worst states to live” in lists. Ultimately what you need and want out of the state is up to you.  It is important, however, to consider as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision. Below are some popular retirement destination states, and the reasons they are considered so, for your consideration.
  

1.  Arkansas is considered to be one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to retirement destinations. It offers a humid, tropical climate, which is strongly influenced by the Gulf of Mexico. Summer weather is humid and hot, but frequent thunderstorms help cool things off. For those looking to get away from states with harsh winters, Arkansas winters are generally mild, with typical lows in January around 30 degrees Fahrenheit, with high temperatures in the 50s. Because of its mild climate, Arkansas is one of the most popular places to retire.

Hot Springs Village is a CDP (census-designated place) located in both Garland and Saline Counties that is considered to be the largest gated community in the U.S. Hot Springs Village has a plethora of recreational amenities available to its residents year-round. The Planning and Inspections Department ensures that all homes and landscaping are well kept, providing a picturesque environment for residents.

In addition to the variety of amenities available to residents, Hot Springs National Park is well-known for their hot spring water that is commonly used for therapeutic baths. For over 200 years, the water has been known to treat rheumatism and other ailments. Years ago, the property was considered to be a reservation; it was later developed into a resort named The American Spa. The Park attracts people from around the globe who are looking to improve their health. Today, you’ll find numerous bathhouses in the Hot Springs area that help people relax and wash away the tension from their busy lives. These waters are known to heal and have a rich history among world travelers who come to experience the area’s healing power.

In addition, the beautiful Arkansas landscape provides a perfect setting in which to retire. The cost of living is lower than most typical retirement destinations. There are many active communities that cater to people over the age of 55. In the northwestern parts of the state, the population is growing fast — making it one of the fastest growing regions in the United States for people age 55 and older.

Arkansas is also a top pick for retirement because it offers retirees a lower cost of living than areas typically considered for retirement. In addition, in Arkansas, retirees can enjoy some of the best fly fishing anywhere.

2.  California is filled with gorgeous sunsets, serene beaches, picture-perfect mountains, and beautiful homes within great communities. The high cost of living is equal to the high quality of life that can be experienced here, if your goal in retirement is to experience the symphonies, world-class opera, museums, restaurants, and beautiful scenery that the golden state offers.

The exceptional climate is why California has remained a long-time retirement destination. It is said to be one of the most comfortable for retirement because although the sun is often shining, the Mediterranean climate provides cool temperatures. Summers temperatures are warm and dry while the winter weather is cool and wet. The marine air controls the weather on the coastline, but further inland, the climate is more varied.

3.  Florida is called the sunshine state with good reason. Florida is among the sunniest and warmest states that have a tropical climate in the United States. There is no other sunnier state with more beautiful coastlines or golf courses. There is also a plethora of outdoor recreational activities.

Over 17 percent of the population in sunny Florida is comprised of retirees’ age 65 years and older. Florida is one of the most common destinations to retire, especially for former military personnel. Roughly ten percent of the state’s retirees are veterans, who choose to settle near military bases to take advantage of discounted rates on medical and pharmacy services.

There are many economic incentives for choosing the state for retirement. Florida is one of the few states that provides financial incentives to retirees, providing reduced taxes on both retirement and inheritance income compared to other states. And for those who plan to work during retirement, the job market has been steadily increasing, with many job opportunities for seniors.

4.  Georgia is another popular states for retirement, where you’ll find welcoming communities and peaceful, scenic living. The peach state is home to a variety of activities. Recently many fair-priced retirement communities have popped up in beach towns along the Atlantic coast.

The climate is considered humid to subtropical, making the summers hot and humid, and the winters very mild. Although it is often overshadowed by Florida as a chosen retirement state, Georgia is often the more cost-effective choice, featuring a lower cost-of-living than Florida, and favorable tax incentives for retirees.

5.  Hawaii is a great place if you envision retiring in paradise. Every day will seem like a vacation, since the state boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The climate is appealing, with only two seasons. Winter averages around 70 degrees and summer temperatures reach around 90 degrees. Humidity can be high, as it is a tropical climate, but the breeze from the ocean makes it very pleasant.

There are many islands to choose from in Hawaii and each has different amenities.  It would be best to plan what type of climate and lifestyle you want before choosing which island will best suit your needs.

While some may feel that Hawaii is more costly, there are other factors that outweigh the higher cost of living. Healthcare and taxes in the state are lower than the national average. When you factor that savings into your monthly budget, it may not be unrealistic to set your heart on retiring in paradise.

6.  Louisiana is uniquely rich in culture and has communities that are attracting seniors more than ever. It is not only a beautiful state but the climate is mild, and the cost of living is low as well as taxes. Louisiana offers state-of-the-art medical facilities, friendly people, and culture like you may not find anywhere else. There are various recreational activities to fit most lifestyles.

If forests and hills are what you envision for your golden years, you may want to consider the northern part of the state. Winters are mostly mild, and the average temperature is about 53 degrees. In the southern parts of Louisiana where you’ll find prairies and bayous, the summers are hot with an average temperature around 82 degrees. Louisiana doesn’t really have a rainy season, but there are plenty of spring showers with the occasional thunderstorm during the summer months.

Taxes in Louisiana have been categorized as “friendly for retirees.” State income tax does exist, but you may be exempt from taxes depending on several factors.

Mardi Gras is not the only activity that Louisiana has to offer. There are several hundred festivals throughout the state; there is always something going on. But the people of Louisiana are probably one of its most valuable assets.

7. Oregon is a lot more that just a beautiful coastline. Living near snow-capped mountains and green river valleys appeals to many; the state is filled with small towns that offer active seniors some unique outdoor adventures. Many people in retirement communities are enjoying the mix of arts and culture as well as hiking, sailing, white water rafting and other outdoor activities.

Some of the coastal towns are becoming increasingly attractive to retirees because of the gorgeous scenery and abundance of recreational activities. People who are looking for a laid back lifestyle would find this the perfect state to settle in.

8.  South Carolina attracts many retirees and has been often ranked among the top ten states to retire. It is mainly loved for its Southern charm and gorgeous landscape, but also because of its rich history and low cost of living. In fact, the slow paced living and outdoor recreation makes this state a great destination for a relaxing retirement. There is plenty of music, art, and theater for those who enjoy a cultural setting.   

The coastal area from Myrtle Beach to Charleston has over 100 golf courses. The beaches along the coast are beautiful and may be appealing to live in as well depending on how close to the water you’d like to live. The people of South Carolina are some of the friendliest and family-oriented folks you’ll find in the country.

9.  Texas has many big cities with small towns that are perfect destinations for retirement. Don’t allow the population numbers to discourage you from considering a move to this immense state. The most major attraction to living in Texas is the great outdoors. There are beautiful country landscapes, picturesque bodies of water, and best of all ten months of comfortably warm weather.

The lone star state is home of many music legends and during this new phase in your life; you may welcome the opportunity to enjoy music festivals and events featuring some of your favorite artists. There is also a symphony and ballet company to enjoy, as well as a lyric opera. The cost of living is comfortable for retirees and has a wide variety of trusted medical facilities and health care programs to fit many different budgets.

How Climate Affects Your Health

Senior Couple In Fitness Clothing Running Along Beach

Statistics show that warmer weather can reduce death rates throughout the United States. A two-year study analyzing monthly death rates in particular states across the country found that deaths peaked during the winter months and were significantly lower during summer months. The International Journal of Biometeorology (WCR Vol. 4 No. 9) published literature highlighting the beneficial factors of heat versus cold weather.

According to the publication, a higher percentage of deaths occurred during winter months. Taking the study into account, recent cold waves across the Northeast and Midwest have brought record-breaking, low temperatures. This resulted in increased health threats and in turn, increased mortality rates during winter months. It is clear that weather can have an extreme impact on our well-being and health. Climate change will not only take a toll on our physical health but our mental health as well. These factors may increase in years to come as global warming continues.

How to Choose the Right State to Retire In

Depositphotos_67115863_s

Every time you open a magazine or browse online, there is a new article on the best places to live in during retirement. Whether its content on the best 50 cities, most cost-effective, most popular, best health care, transportation, or even lowest tax rates, it is not easy to pinpoint just one ideal location.

It is important to keep in mind when reading articles suggesting retirement cities, that these ranking change year-by-year. Rankings help sells magazines and advertising space,  which is why the articles are so popular. Whether or not they provide accurate information is questionable. The main problem is that these lists are based on broad geographic statistics, and while the data may measure certain significant factors, there will always be criteria that cannot be quantified.

The ideal retirement location is something only you can decide, and while lists may help by providing information about different states, the lists will not determine what best fits your specific needs or circumstances. Only you can define the ideal location for you. The best way to determine that is to ask yourself:

  • How close in proximity do you want to be to your family and friends?
  • Do you have aging family members that you may have to take care of in upcoming years?
  • What interests and hobbies are important to you and are they available where you’re thinking about living?
  • Do you plan to work during your retirement? If so, it is important to consider the work market wherever you move and your access to transportation.
  • Do you have medical needs that require specific accommodations?
  • Does your retirement destination meet your budget?

Remember that as you age you may not want to drive, so choosing a city with a better public transportation system may become more important. You’ll also want medical facilities within a close proximity, as well.

An easy way to focus your research and planning is by basing your decisions on where you can live your best life rather than where is the best place to live. Use the lists you find during your research phase as a tool for comparing potential locations, but don’t be swayed by the hype.

When You Should Start Saving for Retirement

Saving

The most practical answer of when to start saving for retirement is in your 20s. As soon as you have completed your education and begin your career, you should allot a percentage of your earnings each pay period towards your retirement fund. The sooner you begin, the more your money will grow. Each year’s savings will generate their own gain year by year; this is known as compounding.

Let’s review an example of compounding. If you begin saving at age 25, setting aside $3,000 into a tax-deferred account over a period of ten years and then stop, by the time you reach 65, your $30,000 investment will have built to more than $472,000, assuming an 8% annual return.

If you wait to start saving until 35 years of age, and save the same $3,000 per year over a 30 year period, by the time you’re 65 and ready to retire, your savings will be up to $90,000. Assuming an 8% annual return would garner approximately $367,000 — a major difference.

Tax-deferred retirement accounts, also known as IRAs and 401Ks are the best account types to save your retirement funds. The different plans have various features but mostly they allow you to defer taxes on the amount you save and the returns you earn.

Tax deferral is best defined as the amount you contribute escaping the usual income tax until you begin to withdraw the money during your retirement phase. The result is that more of your money can earn investment returns over time which is a great advantage over ordinary taxable accounts.

There are other advantages to these plans depending on your contributions and the contributions of your employer. Consult your financial planner or employer to learn more about your options.

In the following videoRon DeLegge talks about retirement savings readiness with Ron Surz, President of PPCA.

 

Financial Resources for Retirement

Discussion of papers

With all of the advancement in education and medicine, people are living longer, which means that there is a good chance you will outlive your retirement funds. With that in mind, you should know what other income sources may be available to you.

Savings. As discussed earlier, the earlier you start your retirement savings, the better off you’ll be when retirement time finally arrives. If you haven’t started saving, now is the time. You can start small and try to increase the amount you set aside each month. The sooner you start, the more your money will grow over times. Saving for your retirement should be a priority. Create a plan and stick with it because it’s never too early or too late to begin the process. Some people make the mistake of thinking that because they waited to think about saving, they might as well disregard the process altogether. In terms of saving for your future, doing something is always better than nothing.

Medicare. Medicare provides health care coverage for people who are 65 and older, despite your income. Medicaid is a federal and state program that offers health care coverage to people of all ages that meet particular low-income criteria. Medicare can provide seniors with different inpatient and outpatient services and a variety of prescription plans. There are several plan options that you should review before applying to make sure your needs will be covered.

Social Security. Social Security will pay benefits during retirement at approximately 40 percent of your pre-retirement earnings. You will receive a payment each month and can have the amount adjusted based on your cost of living. Spouses are also eligible to receive Social Security benefits. If you work during your retirement, an estimate of your earnings will play a role in the amount of Social Security benefits you receive. Visit the Social Security Department’s website to calculate what your monthly earning will be before you apply.

The following information is provided directly on the Internal Revenue Service’s website

Retirement Accounts. Below you will find a list of the available retirement accounts. You can review each account type to learn more about what each one offers and decide what will best fit your needs.

Types of Retirement Plans

Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
Roth IRAs

401(k) Plans
403(b) Plans

SIMPLE IRA Plans (Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees)
SEP Plans (Simplified Employee Pension)
SARSEP Plans (Salary Reduction Simplified Employee Pension)
Payroll Deduction IRAs

Profit-Sharing Plans
Defined Benefit Plans
Money Purchase Plans
Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

Governmental Plans
457 Plans409A Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plans

Depending on your financial status prior to retirement, you may have other income sources available to you from previous investments, pensions, profit-sharing, and home equity. Speaking to a financial advisor during your planning phase is ideal so that you have a full picture of your financial future.

The following charts are available from the Department of Labor’s website.

 

Timeline for Retirement

fishermen perfectly spend time on the river bank

Your timeline to retire depends on a number of factors; generally people retire around the age of 65. Depending on when you were born, you may have certain benefits available to you in addition to the money you set aside throughout the years. Below is a timeline to give you an idea of what’s to come.

At 50 Begin making catch-up contributions, an extra amount that those over 50 can add, to 401(k) and other retirement accounts.
At 59½ No more tax penalties on withdrawals from retirement accounts, but leaving money in means more time for it to grow.
At 62 The minimum age to receive Social Security benefits, but delaying means a bigger monthly benefit.
At 65 Eligible for Medicare.
At 66 Eligible for full Social Security benefits if born between 1943 and 1954.
At 70½ Start taking minimum withdrawals from most retirement accounts by this age; otherwise, you may be charged heavy tax penalties in the future.

Age to Receive Full Social Security Benefits

If you were born: You can receive full Social Security benefits at age:
In 193765
In 1938 65 & 2 months
In 1939 65 & 4 months
In 1940 65 & 6 months
In 1941 65 & 8 months
In 1942 65 & 10 months
Between 1943 & 1954 Age 66
In 1955 Age 66 & 2 months
In 1956 Age 66 & 4 months
In 1957 Age 66 & 6 months
In 1958 Age 66 & 8 months
In 1959 Age 66 & 10 months
In 1960 or after Age 67

 

Your Needs and Wants for Retirement

Happy Senior Couple Sitting On Sofa With Dog

Balancing your finances can seem like a juggling act. One of the most significant skills is to manage your wants and needs. It may seem difficult to decipher the difference between the two at times, but you will become more adept at the distinctions over time. Wants are the items that you don’t need for survival, but would like to have. Sometimes wants disguise themselves because of how much they are desired.

Throughout life, you develop habits that may affect your financial stability during your retirement. Living on your retirement income can create a weaker support structure for your new life. The transition into retirement may seem uncomfortable because finances may impede you from continuing old spending habits while you enter a new phase of life. Most people would like to retire with the freedom to do everything the heart desires. After all, this is supposed to be your leisure time, and it can be as long as you plan ahead before retirement. Consulting a financial planner early in life can help you put your spending into perspective so that you can satisfy both the wants and the needs of your retirement.

It is important to make a plan in order to determine what type of lifestyle you want to experience during your retirement. In your planning, include all of your day-to-day expenditures. Make sure to list all expenses, including housing, food, transportation, utilities, and possible medical expenses. Your “wants” list should include travel, social activities, car, and shopping expenses. Some people also create a wish list that would include items like charity donations and gifts to friends and family. By categorizing your expenses, you will have a better outlook on the money required to maintain your desired lifestyle during retirement.

Finding and Securing the Right Living Arrangement

lake charles

Independent living is designed exclusively for retired, active seniors looking to experience worry-free living. This housing arrangement works well, since most communities offer a safe environment with on-site staff, restaurant-style or buffet-style meals, activity programs, transportation and the flexibility to live in an easy to navigate apartment that requires little to no maintenance. Although residents live independently, there are plenty of recreational activities available on site. Independent living allows residents to connect with each other, while still enjoying all the comforts of a private residence.

In the future if needed customized nursing services are available to provide assisted living and memory care for alzheimer’s and dementia.  These services cater to each individual patient’s needs, but can provide round-the-clock care, if needed. Independent living communities can provide the full array of necessary services, ensuring residents safety

within in a relaxed, comfortable community.

Typical services provided at an independent living community:

  • Easy access to medical & healthcare
  • Three meals per day
  • Housekeeping
  • 24-hour security
  • Recreational & Social activities
  • Exercise program
  • Wellness program
  • Transportation
  • Laundry service
  • Medication management
  • Emergency call system
  • Full staff that can accommodate your scheduled needs

Once you’ve decided if an independent living community is right for you, begin researching which location will best fit your needs. Try not to get overwhelmed during the process — remember to make a list of your needs and wants. Amenities are a significant matter to consider, as is interaction with staff and other residents. The people who around you can  make a huge difference in your comfort level. The type of people who currently reside in a community indicate how well you will live there. If you enjoy an active lifestyle, make sure that there are plenty of social activities available to residents.

You’ll want to visit potential locations during different times of day to get an accurate picture of what the facility has to offer. There are also many senior living resources online that provide resident and employee community reviews. It’s important that you get feedback from existing residents and their family members as well. There is no more accurate way to learn about a community than from the people who live and work there.

Remember to check for cleanliness throughout the community but especially in private rooms or apartments. Remember to verify that the community is compliant with local and state licensing requirement. Lastly, you want to verify their security systems and procedures in order to ensure your safety in case of emergencies.

Are interests and hobbies vital to your health?

Happy elderly woman painting for fun at home

Some of the main ingredients in a happy, healthy life consist of making positive choices to maintain a healthy diet and to exercise regularly. However, interests and hobbies can also play a vital role in your health, as they provide nourishment for your mental health and serve to relieve stress. Over time, you will find that outside interests can become an asset to your physical health as well.

Having lived a life full of to-do lists that are full of stress, finding a hobby or taking up an interest in an activity that is to your liking can bring you a much needed mental break. Hobbies and interests are refreshing because you’re spending time doing things that you enjoy and can help recharge you as you put aside the worries you’ve had up to the time of retirement little by little.

When you take up a new hobby or activity in your life, you’re also increasing your social standing. Meeting new people and building relationships with people that share the same interests can be quite fulfilling. It can bring a new sense of happiness, which improves your quality of living.

Just as important as exercise is to your physical health, exercising your mind is beneficial to your mental health. Spending time enjoying activities like puzzles, reading, card games, and travel will help build bonds with new people, and help will you maintain a positive outlook.

In addition to providing benefits to your mental health, hobbies and interests play an integral role in boosting your self-esteem. It helps you improve yourself by learning something new or reaching goals and accomplishments you can be proud of. For example, taking on a sport you’ve never tried before is a step in the right direction. Building this new skill is not only enjoyable mentally but also physically. You will have a sense of accomplishment that will boost your spirits.

Healthy Activities to Nourish Your Mental Health

Senior woman decorating a ceramic pot

Where do you begin to choose an interest or hobby that best fits your likes and lifestyle? Let’s review some of the great activities that may nourish your mental health and more importantly improve your quality of life. Learning how to fill your time during retirement can be a challenge but the research will teach you about yourself and will benefit your mental health.

Connecting with others. Maintaining relationships with the new people around you will help greatly enrich your life. The strength of your personal relationships has a huge effect on your well-being. It can be quite rewarding to get to new different people. You’ll not only learn about them, but in the process, you may rediscover aspects of yourself that have been buried for forgotten.

Community Outreach. Volunteering time to a cause or issue that is close to your heart can actually help you feel good about yourself. Utilizing your free time by being active in your community will also give you a sense of purpose. Contributing to causes, therefore, may help you contribute to your own needs as well.

Wellness Activities. The fact that you are retired from working doesn’t mean you’re ready to slow down. This is a great time to find an activity that exercises not only your body but also your mind. Consult your physician in cases to see which activities are feasible for you. From water sports to golf and yoga, there is something out there just waiting for you to enjoy.

Crafts. Creating crafty items is always an excellent pastime. There is something to be said for the instant gratification from completing a project. Some may find interest in creating decorative items, while others may choose to make everyday items. Find your niche in the arts and begin your journey to creativity.

Antiquing. Selling and collecting antiques is a challenging and exciting hobby where you can meet other people while making money. If you’ve ever collected items throughout your life, this activity may appeal to you. Start by going through your own collections, and anything you may feel may be of value. Once you’ve sold a few items, you can begin to collect and sell more. Antiques can be very profitable, and the process of collecting is quite enjoyable.

Photography. Capturing life’s moments can be very therapeutic; there is a plethora of possibilities in photography. You can spend days taking pictures of subjects that interest you, or perhaps you enjoy shooting landscapes. You may even find that photography can bring in income by selling your pictures to stock photo companies.

Model Cars. Car lovers that enjoy building but never had the time to do so may find that this is the perfect time to take up the old hobby. Building model cars as a hobby is rewarding and relaxing. If you are crafty and patient, taking the time to build model cars is a great hobby to develop.

Travel. Many retirement communities offer travel programs that will allow you to stay at a sister property free of charge. During retirement, there is no better time to make a list of places you’ve always wanted to visit but never had the chance. Designing a ten year wish list for starters is a great way to set goals for your retirement. Make sure your list is realistic to your budget so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Rather than decide on countries or states that you wish to visit, make a list of things you’ve always wanted to see or do and then find a place that offers those things. You may think that you always wanted to visit Paris to take in the arts and architecture. You may find that you get similar satisfaction somewhere in the Unites States, and that the opportunity to explore arts and culture was what you sought.

Writing & Scrapbooking. One of today’s most popular crafts is scrap-booking, where you create books filled with pages and pages of memories. Creating a written memoir of your life experiences can also be quite satisfying. Revisiting old times will remind you of all the great things you have experienced and accomplished. One of the benefits about writing and scrap-booking is that your loved ones will cherish your stories — you may even find a unique way of telling your untold stories to your children, helping them appreciate the life experiences that helped shape you.

Another avenue of writing that can bring comfort to your mind and soul is writing poetry. Throughout your life, you may appreciated the art in limericks and lyrics but never had the chance to explore your inner poet. Writing is a great way to occupy your mind and relieve stress. Joining a poetry group where you can recite your work can be gratifying as well.

Activity Groups. No matter where you choose to retire, there is a local group that enjoys doing some of the same things that you do. From playing cards to golfing and fishing, your new friends await you to join them in this adventure-filled phase of your life. Take the time to do a little research and ask around about the available activities in your area.

There are an endless number of hobbies and activities to partake in during your retirement. As long as it’s something that makes you happy and does not put your health or life at risk, it’s a good choice to explore. Prior to retirement, you may not have had the time to indulge in these passions. Use your retirement as a reward for all your years of hard work.

Putting It All Together

A married couple planning their retirement life

Now that we’ve covered mostly all of the aspects of the retirement process, we will break down the steps to the “golden years” in a brief and clear form.
At age 50. This is an excellent time to envision the type of retirement you envision. Once you’ve concluded where you’d like to set your heart on living, it’s time to have a conversation with family and friends. For some people, how close to your family you live is vital to your happiness. If your ideal retirement location is too far from family and friends, it may not be the best choice for you. Remember to factor in your health needs when it comes to choosing the right climate to reside in. You still have ample time to decide, and many factors can change before you’re ready to retire. However, having a general idea can help you reach that goal.

Start your research on different living communities after you’ve decided which state you would like to live in. Remember to factor in your wants, your needs, and your budget.

Although you are years away from retirement, you may have an idea by now of what your medical needs are and will be. During the research phase regarding living facilities, make sure you also keep in mind the various levels of care that the location offers. If you are predisposed to any medical conditions, it is wise to prepare for all possible future medical care. Selecting a location that will not meet future needs will cause for you to start your research over again when the time to retire arrives.

Financially, now is the time to begin making “catch-up contributions” to your retirement account(s). People over the age of 50 can add to their 401(k) plans as well as other retirement accounts.

Consider your physical and mental stability and adjust where need be. If you have never really been adamant about exercising or visiting your physician every six months, now is the time to begin. You want to make sure that you are in top physical and mental condition from here on in so that you can fully enjoy your retirement phase as long as possible.

Remember that we learned the importance that having leisure time will be to your retirement years. Now may be a good time to start brainstorming what it is you love to do recreationally. You may want to test the waters in different areas to see what hobbies and activities fit you best.

At age 59.  It’s time to revisit the state you chose to either remain in or move to. If it’s still your ideal choice, then another conversation with family and friends may be in order so that everyone who is important to you is aware that your decision is becoming a firm one.

In terms of living communities, it’s time to narrow down your selections. If anything has changed for you medically, then remember to choose a community that will meet your needs.

At this time, there are no more tax penalties when withdrawing money from your retirement accounts. However, leaving the money is beneficial because you will be allowing more time for it to grow. Remember that the same rule applies at the age of 62 when you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits. The longer you delay the application process to receive benefits, the more your monthly benefits amount will be.

At age 65. Welcome to retirement! You officially qualify for full benefits and are now eligible for Medicare. You’re just another year away for Social Security benefits (if born between 1943 and 1954).

This is actually the perfect time to start the relocation process if you’ve decided to move to a living community. No sense in putting off all the great activities and travel you have planned up to now. This is your time, enjoy it.

By now you should be comfortable and content with your chosen recreational activities and social life. Make sure to keep up the good work as it is conducive to healthy living. If you’re not finding full enjoyment in your chosen activities, there is no one holding you hostage. Explore! Try different hobbies and see what else fits your lifestyle. If you haven’t started your traveling goals, then it’s time to do just that. Bon voyage and don’t forget to send everyone postcards throughout your trip.

At age 70. Six months into your 70th birthday, you can start withdrawing from most of your retirement accounts, at least minimally because otherwise you may be charged tax penalties.

Senior couple with their daughter

The key to a successful retirement lies in your happiness; your physical and mental health lies on the forefront. Financial planning is an integral part of obtaining that happiness because money is what facilitates all of the needs, wants, and wish during your retirement. The only thing you want to worry about is having enough time to do all of the things your heart desires. Having control over how you spend your time should be your only concern, next to enjoying your family and friends. Pursue your passions and interests like never before so that you’re allowing yourself to live your very best life.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living


Q&A with Jean-Michel Cousteau

“Ocean Future’s Society Answers Sunshine’s Questions”

1. Tell me one simple way I can help save the oceans from home, which is my retirement community?

Experiment with your own lifestyle. Take a day, week or month to share with friends and family when you decide to use limited or no energy. Use bikes, candles, eat raw food, use only battery power. See what it’s like. And know for that day, you have helped the environment and the oceans by consuming less.

2. What is one of the most bizarre marine animals you have come in contact with during your adventures?

One of the most bizarre marine animals I have ever seen is the Basketstar, seen in our new film: Secret Ocean. We filmed the Basketstars during the day when they are all curled up and then at night when they are on the prowl to catch drifting plankton.  Related to sea stars, they have no brain or blood, but they have many, many arms that can reach up to three feet and catch plankton at night.  See our Secret Ocean film to learn more. http://oceanfutures.org/exploration/films/secret-ocean-3d

3. How many total hours have you spent underwater?

I have no idea…..thousands and thousands of hours. I have never kept track, I am afraid to say. Every dive is a new adventure and when asked what my favorite dive is, I always say, “the next one!”

4. Given that each species play a vital role in the ecosystems of our oceans, what would be the approach to conserving the overfished species?

I am an optimist. Scientists and those who study our oceans know what species have been overfished. So do the fisherman whose living depend on them. There are certain specials that simply must be left alone to restore themselves. Sharks are the perfect example. The reproduction cycles of the over 400 species of sharks vary, but many take 10 or more years to mature. For many years, we have killed approximately 100 million sharks a year for shark fin soup. These practices can’t be sustained. Read More.

Resource managers and lawmakers have had to step in strongly to ban the importation or sale of shark fin soup. Taking away the incentive at the consumer lever may be the toughest policies of all, but necessary under extraordinary damaging practices like shark finning. We must always improve upon our information and our policies to insure a viable future for the oceans. We are increasing the population of our own human species by over 100 million a year. How are we going to feed them? Can the oceans help feed them? Yes, if we look to practices for the future and change the ways of the past.

5. Where is the most critical environment that has been impacted by tourists?

We live on the Water Planet. Over 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink? Fortunately for most of us, there has been enough potable water to drink. But that is not true in many parts of the world, and everywhere we travel on the globe, we impact water resources. We use water for drinking, recreation, golf courses, and expanding agriculture in areas that used to be rain forests. With an ever-expanding population of humans on this Water Planet, has come an ever-expanding need for more water.
Read More.

As Ecotourists, we must be mindful of conservation and preservation while supporting technological improvements and sustainable practices. When you stay at a hotel or resort, be mindful of water resources. If the hotel practices sustainable conservation methods, tell them you appreciate their efforts. If they are not using sustainable practices, ask them why, and encourage them to do so. Be mindful of your surroundings and your own personal practices. While water is a global challenge, it is a local resource. Use it wisely wherever you are on this Water Planet.

What are the core sustainability practices that you promote to sustain ecologically friendly tourism?
At the core, sustainability means doing the things that make sense from a financial perspective and then result in environmental benefits. We have the privilege of working with two eco-resorts: one in Fiji and one in the Caribbean, as well as advising many other operations around the globe. We have fostered the implementation of truly sustainable practices. When we became involved in the Caribbean, they were using “throw away” plastic bottles and straws. We pointed out that metal bottles could be reused by the guests. The resort calculated the cost of purchasing the plastic bottles and then compared to the cost of the reusable metal bottles. The immediate savings were huge, more than $70,000. As a result, this savvy business decision eliminated the environmentally detrimental effects of collecting plastic, trying to recycle or filling up landfills that will infiltrate the land and ultimately run off into the water of streams, rivers and oceans, leaving harmful residue. At our family camp on the island of Catalina, we practice sustainable actions that make economic sense and then help to keep campgrounds clean and healthy. We compost our left-overs, grow our own vegetables, and conserve water by limiting our showers. Does anyone need to take a 10-minute shower? No! By modeling our sustainable living, our guests, tourists and others who come to us can leave with new ways to help our planet.

What has been the most influential experience since your first dive with an aqualung in 1945?
One of the most influential experiences was when I had the opportunity to swim with orcas in Papau, New Guinea. We spent 9 hours with three orcas who were hunting for reef sharks. Another very influential experience was swimming with the most feared animal in the ocean: the great white sharks off of South Africa.

What are the three top actions humans can do to support marine conservation?
Always check the labels on the food you eat, especially the fish. Keep a copy of our sustainable seafood selections in your wallet and be mindful of everything you eat.

Limit your water consumption for day-to-day activities.

Become an Ambassador of the Environment: Join me in our goal of educating and engaging people of all ages about their natural and cultural environment. We extract and distill lessons from nature and culture, using them to explore alternatives for a sustainable future and empowering participants to live more gently on our planet. With programs all over the world, our Ambassador program seeks to reach as wide an audience as possible. Check out this link on our Ocean Futures website: http://oceanfutures.org/learning/ambassadors-environment

What ocean has the most bio diversity?
Coral reefs are believed to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet – even more than a tropical rainforest. Occupying less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to more than twenty five percent of marine life. This is a solar powered city where coral reach up to collect the sun’s energy. With an appreciation for the value of coral and all reef species, one can understand how the entire ecosystem maintains itself through the acquisition of energy, recycling of raw materials, the diversity of jobs performed by the resident species and the vital interconnections that link all species together. It is a city where there is no pollution and what we might consider waste is actually an important resource for another animal. So the answer to your question is: all the oceans with healthy coral reef systems have the most bio diversity.

How can we assist with lessening the impact of commercial fishing while still maintaining a sustainable fishing industry?
The answer is simply stated although harder to accomplish: education, information, and implementation (management). When we gather the information, everyone wins. I am often asked if I eat fish. The answer is yes I do. And frankly, I love fisherman. They want a sustainable business, jobs and recreation, and want to be sure they can catch fish this season and next. For a long time, we all made mistakes. We treated the ocean like an open sewer and overfished. Nothing on this planet is limitless. But now, with knowledge and information and all of us working together with the fisherman, we have identified certain fishery resources that have been overfished, resulting in declining catches and revenue. We have a sustainable solution. Set aside certain areas in the ocean to prohibit or limit fishing for some time. Let the resources build back up. When our information shows certain species cannot be fished without imperiling the resources, get that information out to everyone, including the consumers. We live in a new era communications. Through the Internet and social media, the information we have at our disposal can be communicated worldwide. I am an optimist. We can insure sustainable fisheries for the future by using the information available to us and managing our resources.

*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living