4 Easy Home Security Upgrades for Older Adults

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 by Eric Murrell

HomeSecurity

Outdated technology and unreliable hardware have made some traditional home security setups tough to live with, especially for older adults. Inconvenient wall-mounted control panels can be difficult to access in a hurry if you have limited mobility, and many old-style systems feature small controls and clumsy interfaces that can be especially frustrating for arthritic hands.

Thankfully, the recent wave of smart home innovations (including those from your local cable company) has brought many new products and technologies to the marketplace that make it easier than ever to secure your home. Here are some of the best upgrades to make your home safer, and an all-around better place to live.

1. Video Doorbells

Home security starts at the front porch, and one of the best smart gadgets on the market is a simple upgrade to a common household feature: the doorbell. Products like the Skybell WiFi Video Doorbell and the August Doorbell Camera can provide an excellent first line of defense to your home that is surprisingly easy to use and install.

Simply remove the old doorbell button, attach a few small wires and connect the unit to your home’s Wi-Fi. This simple 10-minute project will provide you with a motion-detecting video feed of visitors and deliveries, all visible via a mobile app on your phone.

With this system in place, seniors can easily screen visitors without ever having to make their way to the door — which means being able to dismiss solicitors through your television, smart phone or tablet, without even getting up.

2. Smart Garage Door Systems

Upgrading your garage door opener is probably the last thing you think of when you contemplate home security, but seniors may find today’s smart garage sensors to be a huge help in keeping their homes safe.

Systems like MyQ from Chamberlain and other similar products connect a few simple sensors in the garage to a smart home hub, giving users wireless control over their garage doors from inside their home, or even from afar. The app makes it simple to close a forgotten open door while you’re lying in bed or away visiting family. Many cases of theft are due to something as simple a homeowner leaving a garage door open overnight, and this simple tool can help prevent that from happening.

3. Smart Sensors and Cameras

Older adults looking for more traditional ways of securing their homes may be happy to learn that the clunky security products of the past have been replaced with smarter, more reliable solutions that are much easier to install. Visit your local hardware store or talk to your internet service provider or cable company, and you’ll discover some excellent home security kits that operate with battery-powered sensors instead of wires.

You can place these cameras and sensors throughout your home in a matter of minutes, or have the installation done for you by a professional. Use the products in conjunction with a wireless wall panel, or even as part of an all-inclusive smart home hub that you can control through a mobile app on your phone.

These systems are effective on their own, but they’re especially useful when you throw a few indoor and outdoor smart cameras into the mix. Outdoor cameras can give you an early alert to unexpected visitors (whether you’re at home or away), and indoor cameras can provide a valuable safety net of additional security and comfort, as many include temperature and air quality sensors, too.

4. Video Intercoms

Video intercom systems, like the Nucleus Video Intercom and several models of the Amazon Echo, now feature audio and video calling that make communicating across large homes more manageable. This easy-to-use technology can be a big help to older folks who may have difficulty hearing family members calling to them from other rooms.

As convenient as these tools are, they also include a few additional features that can be particularly valuable to seniors in emergencies. Most of these products feature voice-activated calling, and some can even send and receive calls from sources outside of the home. This gives seniors a critical lifeline in the event of a fall emergency, and it allows trusted loved ones to check in through a live video feed. The best part? They’re also great for video chatting with the grandkids.

Maybe your home came with a built-in security system, or you installed one yourself many years ago, but that doesn’t mean you need to tie yourself to a frustrating setup you’ve wrestled with for years. Newer systems can do what’s called a “take over” of an existing system and offer a few smart (and inexpensive) upgrades that can dramatically improve the comfort and safety of your home.

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Eric Murrell is a software developer and technology contributor to XFINITY Home. He enjoys sharing tips on how people can benefit from incorporating smart home automation and security in their homes on his blog At Home in the Future.

 

Why Seniors Love These 5 Cities for Retirement

Friday, November 10th, 2017 by Tracy Layden

RetiredCouple

After a long career, retirement is the reward that many of us look forward to with anticipation. The first thing some newly retired people do? Move to a new city and get a fresh start. But then the question becomes, where to go?

If you’re having trouble deciding where to retire, look no further. Learn why these five U.S. cities are among the most beloved places to retire.

1. Orlando

Orlando, Florida Cityscape

Orlando is not only a popular travel destination for families – it can also be a great place to retire. In fact, the city was ranked the 2017 #1 best city in which to retire by WalletHub.

  • Warm and sunny weather. If you love soaking up the sun, Orlando is for you. Many seniors love it here because of the never-ending warmth. It rarely gets cold here and when the temperature does drop, it’s bearable.
  • Amusement parks are close by. With Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and many more theme parks close by, there is always something to do. Even if theme parks are not for you, they give grandchildren an additional incentive to come and spend some quality time.
  • An abundance of outdoor activities. Orlando features many trails to hike, lakes and rivers to explore, and more than 170 golf courses in which to play. So if you like to get out and enjoy nature, Orlando may be the perfect place for you to retire.

2. Scottsdale

Arizona landscape, Scottsdale, Phoenix area,USA

If you love the idea of desert living, Scottsdale could be a great city for you. Many seniors have chosen to enjoy their retirement in this arid climate where the air is warm and the sun shines bright. Nearly 28 percent of the city’s population is age 60 and older.

  • Resort-style living for retirees. Because of its high senior population, Scottsdale is home to an abundance of age-friendly activities. Treat yourself at spas, play at the many golf courses, or enjoy a hike in the beautiful desert mountain scenery.
  • Fewer taxes. When you’re living off of your savings or retirement income, you don’t want to spend it all on taxes. Arizona offers a relatively low property tax compared to other states and there is no tax on retirement benefits from Social Security.
  • A senior-friendly environment. Scottsdale has a large senior population with many retirement communities and healthcare facilities. It boasts accessible buildings, numerous community events and a low crime rate.

3. Denver

Denver Colorado

If you love the snow and warm weather and can’t decide between the two, then Denver may be the ideal city for you. Split between sun and snow, seniors living here get the best of both worlds. Walk Score ranks it as the 16th most walkable large city in the U.S., and it's consistently ranked in the top two spots in the U.S. News Best Places to Live rankings.

  • Beautiful nature all around. Denver offers an abundance of natural landscapes to visit and explore. Including the Rocky Mountains, there are a number of natural parks, rivers and lakes that are perfect for day trips.
  • An active community. If you consider yourself an active senior, Denver is a town that will keep you moving. The city offers a wide variety of nearby outdoor activities like skiing, hiking and biking.
  • A thriving food and arts scene. If you love to eat, you’re sure to enjoy Denver’s downtown restaurants. For those who enjoy art and architecture, the art galleries, museums and historic buildings are for you.

4. Houston

Houston, Texas, USA Skyline

Houston is a big city with lots to offer. With weather that is warm or temperate most of the year (the January average is 62 degrees Fahrenheit), you can enjoy your affordable housing and avoid having to shovel snow.

  • Affordable living. Seniors love living in Houston because they get more for their money than they would in pricier areas.
    • Housing costs are 22% below national average and the overall cost of living is 10% lower than the national average. Plus, there's no state income tax, and property tax exemptions for residents aged 65 and older.
  • Museums galore. If you love spending your days learning in a museum, Houston is the perfect retirement city for you. It offers the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Space Center, just to name a few.
  • Diverse cuisine options. Houston’s population has changed dramatically in recent years, and it has become known as one of America’s most diverse cities. That means great food from different cultures. Seniors who retire here have a wide variety of cuisines from which to choose.

5. San Francisco, California

Painted Ladies of San Francisco

San Francisco is known for being the home of the Golden Gate Bridge and its scenic hilly streets dotted with cable cars, but it has much more to offer for retirees. People aged 65 and older make up 13 percent of the city's population. What San Francisco lacks in affordability, it makes up for in a bustling culture and quality amenities that make for an excellent quality of life.

  • San Francisco is close to many landmarks. Visit the historic Chinatown or the infamous Alcatraz Island. Or if you are a wine lover, nearby Napa County’s world-renowned wineries are just a short drive away. If you are the outdoorsy type, experience the local redwood forests or visit numerous nearby beaches and hiking trails.
  • The city's rich culture can be felt all year long. The Bay Area has a diverse population with a wealth of cultural offerings and history to share. These demographics give the area a wide variety of experiences to explore, from festivals to an abundance of different cuisines.
  • San Francisco weather is pleasant all year long. The Bay Area’s climate is as diverse as its people. It rarely gets overly hot or cold. You’ll have to leave the city proper to get hot days, but San Francisco rarely gets overly hot or cold. With its mild winters and pleasant summers, the Bay Area has a spring-like climate almost year-around.
 

Your New City Awaits You

If you’re thinking about moving somewhere new for retirement, consider one of these cities that many retirees enjoy. Moving to a new city can be a great way to shake things up and make retirement your next grand adventure.

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Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a medical alert company dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

Aging in Place: Tips for Choosing Senior-Friendly Kitchen Appliances

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 by Lea Schneider

KitchenAppliances1

Home-cooked meals are one of my favorite parts of visiting my older parents. However, knowing they’re doing all that cooking also makes me worry. Kitchens can be dangerous places for older adults, but my parents like to serve family favorites and want to eat the same foods they’ve always enjoyed. And while dining out occasionally is a treat for them, going to a restaurant every night is a chore.

Luckily, you can help your older loved one continue to enjoy worry-free cooking at home by following the simple steps below.

Microwaves

The microwave is an ideal kitchen appliance for seniors. It shuts itself off when the cooking time is up, making it safe to cook hot meals and heat up soups, hot drinks or leftovers. The following tips can help when selecting and installing a microwave:
  • Choose one with an easy-to-use control panel. Preprogrammed buttons for food types — such as a mug of tea, popcorn or a plated dinner make it simple to operate.
  • Check the positioning. As people age, they may not have the height or upper-body strength to reach a microwave over the stove.
  • Make sure there’s an empty countertop or other space available near the microwave to put down a hot dish immediately after taking it out of the microwave.
  • Check to see which is safer in their kitchen — a microwave door that opens left to right or right to left.
  • Heat up a few meals on your aging loved one’s dishes to make sure the dishes don’t get too hot to handle. Some materials will be burning hot to the touch, while others won’t. Remove the ones that could cause burns or scalds.

Stove Ranges

Cooking on a stove range becomes second nature after generations of doing so. That can make it easy to cook on autopilot, then wander off and forget something. Here are some range features and add-ons that can help your aging loved ones prevent accidents:
  • An automatic shut-off range can prevent accidental fires. Some use motion-sensor technology, so if someone isn’t present and moving about, the stove (or oven) shuts off. You can also retrofit an existing range with an automatic shut-off device.
  • A hot surface indicator light helps warn against touching hot stove burners.
  • Add a cooktop fire suppressor under the stove hood to stop unattended cooking fires. It’s easy to do, and some models attach just with magnets.
  • Pots and pans with heat-resistant handles help prevent burns.

Refrigerator Remedies

Even refrigerators require a few safety checks or an upgrade, depending on how old they are. The most important thing is to make sure the refrigerator and freezer maintain the correct temperatures.
  • Look for a refrigerator with a digital display of current temperatures or retrofit a thermometer to the inside of older models.
  • Opt for a model with an ice and water dispenser to help your loved one stay hydrated without juggling ice trays or pitchers of cold water. Keep a towel nearby to easily mop up drips or spills.
  • Switch to a side-by-side refrigerator to make it easier for someone in a wheelchair or of smaller stature to reach the freezer.

Smarter Small Appliances

Some time ago, people would worry about having left the house with the iron or coffeepot still on. Fortunately for us, technology has created timers and automatic shut-off devices. If your loved one’s small appliances don’t have this shut-off feature, consider replacing them or installing an automatic shut-off outlet instead. Plug the appliances into the outlet and program them to shut off after a certain amount of time.

While you’re on the safety hunt, double-check these other common kitchen hazards:

  • Remove or fix trip and fall hazards, such as area rugs and loose tiles or acrylic flooring.
  • Move items to lower cabinets so that a ladder or step stool is never needed.
  • Equip the kitchen with a dawn-to-dusk nightlight to prevent fumbling around in the dark.
When added up, all these little changes can make a big difference in a senior’s ability to age in place and enjoy the comforts of a home-cooked meal.

Lea Schneider is a professional organizer who has aging parents. She writes for The Home Depot about her ideas for making their lives easier, including organizing their kitchen and upgrading their appliances. For more information about the appliances Lea talks about in this article, visit The Home Depot.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

5 Expert Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

Thursday, October 26th, 2017 by SeniorHomes Staff Writers

SleepTips

You’ve likely already heard many times how important it is to get enough sleep. insufficient sleep results in daytime fatigue, memory problems and depression. And as people get older, they become more susceptible to various sleep-related health problems, including narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and insomnia.

Even if you don't have a specific health problem, sleep can still be disrupted if you’re under a lot of stress or are taking certain medications. Sleep and aging are intrinsically linked, and most senior sleep problems can be improved with some simple lifestyle changes.

1. Get Active During the Day

Exercise offers a multi-pronged approach to helping people sleep. Working up a sweat is a fantastic way to reduce stress. When you exercise, you raise your body’s natural temperature. As you cool down and rest afterward, your body temperature drops, triggering sleepiness.

There are many different exercises older adults can do to reap the benefits. Walking or jogging outside is a great option because it gives your body an opportunity to absorb sunlight, which gives you needed vitamin D, which plays a critical part in maintaining healthy sleep cycles. Additionally, strength training moves such as lunges, squats and shoulder presses, also appear to aid people in getting to sleep, regardless of what time of day the exercise took place.

2. Make Sure to Get Your Vitamin D

As mentioned above, you can get some of the vitamin D you need from sunlight. What you may not know is that it's also important to eat a diet rich in the nutrient. Without enough of the vitamin, senior sleep problems can become more prevalent, and sufferers are more likely to experience sleep disturbances. Numerous foods are rich in vitamin D, including:
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks
You can find out whether they have a vitamin D deficiency by undergoing a simple blood test. Excessive sweating, unexplained muscle weakness and constant pain are just a few of the symptoms a person suffers from a deficiency. Low levels of vitamin D are also linked with osteoporosis, so getting more of the vitamin in your diet does more than just help you sleep better.

3. Meditate

Occasionally, all you'll need for a better night’s sleep is to take a few minutes out of the day to unwind and meditate. In fact, Dana Diament, a senior instructor at Yoga Medicine, says that “By tuning into our breath or using a mantra in meditation, we are gently coaxing the body to relax. This then signals to the body that there is no more danger and no need to be alert.”

You can get started by choosing a calming focal point, such as breathing in and out slowly. Choose a phrase to repeat throughout the meditation. It can be something simple, such as “I am at peace.” Finally, allow your mind to relax and let go.

4. Try Therapy

Insomnia is not uncommon among aging adults. Sleeplessness is often caused by negative thoughts, and there is a solution available that does not require prescription medication. Cognitive behavior therapy can be a big help for older adults and is recommended highly by Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep doctor and author who has written at length about therapy’s impact on insomnia.

“Several studies investigating the cost of CBT for insomnia show that this form of insomnia treatment is both therapeutically effective and also cost-effective,” Breus writes. “ CBT for insomnia reduces health care utilization and health care costs, according to…research.”

Therapy addresses the root cause of insomnia rather than merely treat the symptoms, which is often the case with medication. Therapy may not work for everyone, but is worth looking into.

5. Stay Away From Blue Light

Blue light refers to the light emitted by many electronic devices, including tablets, cell phones and laptops. In the past, people’s circadian rhythms remained in sync with the Earth’s rotation because they would experience bright sunlight during the day and total darkness at night, signaling it was time to go to bed. However, many people continue staring at blue light at night, sometimes minutes before trying to fall asleep.

“Many seniors experience poor sleep because their circadian rhythm is out of synchrony with the earth’s rotation,” said Richard Hansler, PhD, founded LowBlueLights.com, which offers blue-free lighting products and specialized sleep glasses. “To reset their internal clocks they need to expose their eyes to lots of light during the morning and throughout the day. They also need to avoid light, especially blue light in the hours before bedtime.”

Avoiding blue light will help the body produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles, he says. Instead of staring at a computer or cell phone screen before bed, it’s a better idea to grab a book, work on a puzzle, or another low-tech diversion.

 

 

How to Advocate for Yourself at the Doctor's Office

Thursday, October 12th, 2017 by Gina Roberts-Grey

Medical exam

 

Ever walked out of your doctor’s office feeling unclear about how to implement a new aspect of your treatment plan, or about the potential side effects of a medication? Or maybe you suddenly remember a list of questions you wanted to address but forgot to ask when you were in the exam room.

Not only can these situations be frustrating, they could potentially damage your health if they prevent you from following your doctor’s prescribed course of treatment, keep you from seeking additional treatment or lead to not receiving an accurate and swift diagnosis. That’s why self-advocacy is an important skill for anyone navigating the medical system.

“It is absolutely critical that patients advocate for themselves,” says R. Ruth Linden, Ph.D., an independent health advocate and Founder and President of Tree of Life Health Advocates in San Francisco. “The days of patriarchal medicine are over and patients must be informed consumers of health care.”

These steps will help you chart a successful course throughout every phase of your trip to the doctor’s office.

Before you arrive

Prepare

Linden suggests taking a moment to consider the purpose of your visit and write it down. Ask yourself if this is this a one-time consultation or if you’re interviewing a doctor to determine whether you want her to follow you for the long term. “The approach you take may be quite different depending on your goal,” she says.

Make a list

Jot down questions you want to have answered during your appointment. “Review them before your appointment because they may change after you’ve thought them over,” says Linden.

Then prioritize the list in order of importance, as your doctor will likely only have time to discuss a few of the questions in one visit. “Many patients are afraid of bothering the doctor or are embarrassed that they will be perceived as uneducated,” says Nicole Rochester, MD, a physician, patient and caregiver advocate and founder of Your GPS Doc, LLC.

Asking questions is the only way to ensure you have all of the information you need to care for yourself effectively, she says.

Phone a friend

Ask a friend to accompany you to your appointment to take notes and provide a second pair of eyes and ears. Linden says somewhere between 40 and 80 percent of the information provided by a healthcare provider in the course of a visit is immediately forgotten by patients. “Almost 50 percent of the information that is remembered is incorrect,” she adds. “This is true for patients of all ages, including those with no cognitive or memory problems.”

Having an extra set of eyes and ears can reduce confusion and the chance of misremembering the information covered during a visit with the doctor.

During the Appointment

Bring a list

To ensure you’re fully prepared for your appointment, keep an updated list of medications and any supplements, herbal treatments, etc., you’re currently taking. Rochester says a primary health care provider may not know that a recent trip to a specialist to treat arthritis pain resulted in a change to the medicine you take daily. “That could lead to interactions, unwanted side effects or even complications,” she says.

“Knowing your health history and current medications, etc., will let your doctor know that you are serious about your care and want to make sure your visit is worthwhile,” says Rochester.

It will also reduce the risk of miscommunication between health care providers.

Slow things down

Linden stresses that patients should never feel rushed out of the exam room or that their doctor is in a hurry to conclude the appointment.

“If your doctor makes you feel rushed, speak up,” she advises. “If your doctor doesn’t change his or her approach, find another doctor.”

And don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to speak in lay terms as much as possible.

Don’t hesitate to interrupt and ask, “Would you please explain that to me in plain language?" And never leave the office until you fully understand the diagnosis, prescribed treatment, upcoming tests or procedures, etc, says Rochester.

Be persistent

Lisa Doggett, MD, a board-certified family physician in Austin, Texas, learned the importance of persistence several years ago when dealing with her own doctor’s office. “I kept calling my doctor’s office until I found a nurse who went over in detail the results of my blood test over the phone. She first said everything was ‘normal.’”

But it was only once Doggett pushed for the details of each tests that she learned she had early menopause at age 41.

“If I had not been so persistent, my diagnosis would have been missed,” she says

Ask for help

Doggett emphasizes that your doctor’s care can extend beyond writing a prescription and checking your blood pressure. “You may need to enlist your doctor’s help to get a prescription medicine approved or receive free medicine through a patient assistance program, to get an urgent appointment for a test or with a specialist if needed or to help you access extra services you may need, like home health or physical therapy,” she says.

A good patient-doctor relationship should include your comfort in speaking up for yourself and asking for help.

Follow up

Rochester says never to assume that no news is good news. “Call for results if you don’t receive them via a patient portal or phone call from your doctor’s office,” she advises.

And ask your doctor’s office to send you a copy in the mail of any labs or tests that are done in order for you to ensure there’s clear communication between your health care providers.

Rochester points out that your primary health care provider may not know if you go into the hospital or visit the emergency room. “Not only should you make sure your doctor knows when you go to the ER or are admitted to the hospital, you should ask the doctor that cares for you in the hospital to send records and also call your primary care doctor to share what happened while you were there,” she says.

Similarly, when you see a specialist, your primary care doctor may never know unless you tell them. “You should always remind the specialist to send records to your primary care doctor, and you should take notes of any recommendations or medication changes recommended by the specialist,” says Rochester.

 

Self-Driving Car Technology that Can Offer Seniors Independence

Thursday, September 14th, 2017 by Warren Clarke

SeniorDriver

 

For most of us, there is a sense of independence that comes with our ability to drive ourselves from one place to the next. Teens get a feeling of euphoria and freedom when they obtain their driver's licenses and finally achieve the mobility that comes with being behind the wheel. Conversely, if you're a senior, it can be incredibly discouraging if health problems have forced you to limit or entirely curtail your driving.

Newly emerging self-driving car technology can be of value in this area. These advancements may be able to help seniors drive more safely and with greater confidence. Today’s self-driving technologies offer everything from simple assistive features to fully autonomous solutions for some of the major pain points of the driving experience.

 

Spreading Awareness

Challenges exist when it comes to public awareness and acceptance of car safety technology.  A recent study conducted by CARFAX—a company that provides vehicle history reports and other key information regarding used cars—indicated that although 82 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of car safety technology, most didn't consider these features must-haves when buying a car.

Those who are 55 and over tend to be late adopters when it comes to technology. But in the case of car tech, the CARFAX study reported that older car buyers tend to be more trusting of the newest automotive safety technology than their younger peers. In the survey, six out of 10 respondents 55 and older stated that they fully trust car safety technology. Among millennials, only four out 10 respondents expressed the same confidence.

Automotive safety technology can add convenience and lead to fewer accidents behind the wheel, and it deserves wider acceptance.

Below is a lineup of car technology that can help seniors navigate the road more safely.

 

Driver-assistive technologies

Certain features can assist senior drivers in significant ways, even though they don't offer fully autonomous functionality.

Failing vision may make it more difficult for an older driver to spot obstacles. Backup cameras—one of the most popular and trusted technologies—can assist seniors in safely reversing by providing a clear image of what’s behind them. When it comes to approaching vehicle when changing lanes, a blind-spot monitor can help. This system issues a warning if you attempt to change lanes while there's a vehicle in your blind spot.

For some older drivers, slower reflexes are a problem, and this can create a dangerous situation if an object suddenly appears in their path while driving. Forward collision mitigation with autonomous braking can be lifesaver in these instances. This feature is able to detect obstacles in a vehicle’s path, and automatically activates the brakes if the driver doesn't respond in time.

Meanwhile, cruise control can be a godsend when it comes to highway driving, helping drivers automatically maintain a consistent speed. Adaptive cruise control takes things a step further by automatically maintaining a safe distance between your car and the vehicle immediately ahead of you when you're cruising down the freeway.

 

Self-parking cars

Some seniors have a hard time with parking, and it's easy to understand why. Arthritis is a condition that's common in older adults, and it's the No. 1 cause of disability in the U.S. According to information published by the Arthritis Foundation, almost half of adults 65 or older have this condition. Arthritis can cause joint stiffness, and can severely limit mobility.

Safe parking requires a fair amount of dexterity, since you have to twist your neck and maneuver your shoulders to get a view of the surrounding area as you slide into your parking spot. This can create a great deal of stress and pain for arthritic seniors.

Self-parking cars represent a handy solution. These cars can handle even the most nerve-wracking parallel-parking maneuver with calm efficiency.

Cars with these tech features are widely available. They're currently offered by manufacturers such as Volvo, Chevrolet and Chrysler, and you can also get self-driving functionality with a Toyota Prius.

 

Self-driving cars

Self-driving cars used to exist only in the realm of science fiction, but the future has undoubtedly arrived. Today, some automakers offer cars that completely handle the task of driving in certain circumstances. Many of these models use sophisticated sensors that bounce laser beams off of objects in the vicinity to create precise 3-D maps of the surrounding area.

Plus, the latest Audi A8 offers a feature called the Traffic Jam Pilot. This feature is capable of autonomously handling all functions regarding steering, throttle and braking at speeds of up to 37 mph on freeways and highways.

And Tesla's electric vehicles are available with an autopilot function that will take over the wheel. Tesla uses eight surround cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors to achieve this feat. The company boasts that this technology is able to see through pouring rain and heavy fog, and can even identify obstacles that are ahead of the vehicle in front of you.

Numerous carmakers are developing this type of technology. In the months and years ahead, it's expected that car buyers interested in self-driving technology will have a growing array of choices to consider. In the meantime, seniors can prolong and enjoy their freedom behind the wheel with the safety technologies already available.

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Warren Clarke is a consumer advocate and automotive writer for CARFAX, an online resource for used car buying. He enjoys following the latest car technology and sharing tips to help drivers of all ages.

Tips for a Longer, Happier Life -- And How to Save for It

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 by Acts Retirement Guest Contributors

Senior couple getting financial advice

All of us want to live a long, happy life with comfortable financial stability. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

 

1. Eat Right

Diet matters a lot when it comes to your health and longevity. However, you don’t have to follow the trendiest diet-du-jour in order to be healthy and live longer. Multiple studies have shown that many of the people who live past 100 eat what would be called a Mediterranean diet, which means high in fruits, nuts, healthy fats, and vegetables, low on meat.

Case in point: many centenarians live in Mediterranean countries. This diet has also been linked to better brain health and lower risk for heart disease.

Financial Tip: Eating right can coincide with saving money. When you cook your own healthy meals, it’s far cheaper than eating out. You’re saving on medical bills in the long run, too.

Here’s another simple tip – switch soda and flavored drinks for water. Soda and other sugary drinks are expensive and can cause weight gain. Drink water to benefit your health and your wallet.

 

2. Be Mindful

We all know it’s good to practice mind-body-spirit awareness. Listen to your body, feed the soul, and so on. In fact, meditation and other forms of mindfulness are good candidates for this list. But that’s not what this tip is about. This is about being prudent and dependable.

Scientists who studied longevity over an 80-year span in The Longevity Project at Stanford University found that people who were conscientiousness tended to live longer lives.

People assume that it’s the relaxed personalities among us that live longer. That’s not necessarily true, according to the researchers. They speculate that people who are “prudent, persistent, and well-organized” tend to make better choices in life.

Financial Tip: Apply prudence, persistence, and organization to your finances. Do you have a budget, an emergency fund, and a retirement fund? These are just a few of the basic elements of good money management. If you need help in this area, a one-hour session with a financial advisor might help you get things sorted out.

 

3. Stay in School Your Whole Life

Your high school days may be far behind you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be getting an education. Scientists have linked higher education to a longer life — as much as nine years longer.

Again, the explanation has to do with decision-making. Like people who are persistent and well-organized, people who are highly educated tend to make better choices in their life when it comes to their health.

Financial Tip: How much do you know about saving for retirement? Mutual fund? IRAs? Life insurance policies? There are plenty of well-written blogs that regularly share expert information about personal finance.

The Internet is a wonderful thing, so take advantage and learn as much as you can about your own finances. Understanding money will help you make better choices about how to spend and save.

 

4. Downsize and Reduce Stress

Are you an empty nester? Do you find that your house requires more work than it used to? Your house may be causing you unnecessary stress. You may want to consider downsizing.

Decide what downsizing means to you and how it can positively impact your life. Ask yourself: do I still need this? Does this item make me happy? Questions like this will help you decide whether to downsize by removing a few items or completely relocating to a space that better suits your needs. See 8 tips on downsizing your home.

Financial Tip: There are hidden costs to home ownership. You may think you’re saving money by staying in your house, but you could be wrong. Have you considered downsizing your house and moving to a retirement community? Learn about the hidden costs of home ownership, then decide whether a retirement community is the right choice for you.

As you progress through the stages of adopting these tips, remember that none of the advice you’ve received here today is impossible to put into action. You can start today, and none of this has to cost you a dime. In fact, weaving these tips into your life should help you start saving more money while living longer and healthier.

 


 

Acts Retirement-Life Communities is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit continuing care retirement community organizations. Acts Retirement-Life Communities has 22 retirement communities in 8 states. The communities offer a range of apartments, villas and cottages that are a perfect fit for both your budget and your lifestyle. Acts Communities offer a variety of fitness activities and classes like art and book clubs.

7 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Planning Your Estate

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 by Scott Morris

senior couple estate planning

When someone dies, not only must friends and family deal with their grief, but often, they must also start untangling the estate planning laws and regulations that suddenly come into play.

Without a sound estate plan, families can be left paying thousands of dollars in extra taxes or fighting bitterly with each other.

To help you get started with this daunting process, or to double-check your existing plan, we asked some estate planning experts what are some of the most common mistakes they’ve come across.

 

1. Not having an estate plan at all

Experts point out that everyone should have some kind of estate plan: even young people or people with limited means.

“I understand that people don't enjoy pondering their own eventual death or possible incapacitation,” said Ryan McPherson of Intelligent Worth, a financial planning firm in Atlanta, Georgia. “However, having a will (and related docs) is perhaps one of the most important and responsible steps you can take to safeguard your spouse, children, and assets.”

It’s also important to come up with a plan when everyone involved is healthy and able to participate. Many experts recounted stories of families in crisis, scrambling to come up with a plan before it’s too late.

“It's so much easier on families to make these decisions while they are not in crisis, when they have capacity, when it's possible to take steps to accomplish their goals,” said Danielle Van Ess, an attorney with DGVE Law in Hingham, Massachusetts.

 

2. Not updating your will, especially after major life events

Many families may just “set it and forget it” when making an estate plan, but experts agree that this is another common mistake. Families need to be continuously revisiting their estate plan, particularly after major life events, like moving, having another child, or buying a second house.

“Laws change, but more frequently, family dynamics change,” said Gary Garland, an elder law attorney and financial planner with Garland Law Offices in Manalapan, N.J.

“Either a beneficiary has changed, a fiduciary (executor, trustee) has died or the relationship has changed, or the titling of the assets changed. Documents should ideally be reviewed every three years or when major life changes occur,” Garland said.

 

3. Ignoring state taxes

One thing in particular to watch out for, especially if you move, is whether you’ve taken state taxes into account, which will likely have different rules than federal estate taxes.

“With the federal estate tax exemption currently at $5.49 million, people may think they don’t have to worry about estate taxes when they die so they don’t plan for the issue,” said ReKeithen Miller, a financial planner with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in its Atlanta office.

“However, many states have their own estate and inheritance tax laws and their exemptions are much lower than the federal amount,” Miller said.

Exemptions in some states could be as low as $1 million. Make sure you check the laws in your state to make sure that your heirs won’t end up owing a lot more in taxes than you or they expected.

 

4. Leaving everything to your spouse

Some experts warn that leaving everything to your spouse outright and trusting them to take care of the children could be a mistake, particularly if your spouse remarries. Your spouse’s new partner could end up taking a much larger share of your assets, leaving your children with less.

Molly James, a partner with international law firm Troutman Sanders who deals with estate planning, suggests setting up a trust as a way around that problem.

“Some people have a misconception that trusts are complicated and that their very existence requires a trustee outside of the family and/or the beneficiaries,” James said. “Properly drafted trusts can have the main beneficiary as the sole trustee.”

This means your spouse could control over the trust, but you can name your children as beneficiaries in the event your spouse dies, James said. The only extra expense would be filing a separate tax return on behalf of the trust.

 

5. Assuming your family will continue to get along

Family frictions can be exacerbated by the death of a family member, and even if your family is getting along great now, that might not last. Without a clear plan, family members might start fighting for control of various assets.

Or there could be bitterness over how things were divvied up. A lack of guidance on family assets like a lake cabin could also lead to fighting.

“A parent’s nightmare is to know that bad blood between siblings is ignited by the distribution of family assets,” said Patrick Brault, a principal at Wipfli Hewins Investment Advisors in the Twin Cities area. “When crafting estate plans, parents should carefully consider the relationships between siblings and their mates when making final decisions on the distribution of their hard-earned assets.”

This could require sitting down to a family meeting for some difficult conversations.

The state of your children’s lives is another thing to take into account -- an equal distribution of assets might not be the correct course of action, particularly if one child is wealthy and the other is struggling.

You also might want to consider the bad habits of your children or their partner and again consider a trust that could prevent them from burning through it too quickly, Brault added.

 

6. Not communicating or being specific enough

Communication is key, and you should make sure you’re as specific as possible. Another source of friction can be seemingly rote decisions about organ donation, burial or memorial services that were left up to surviving family members to decide.

“Emotions are high, reasoning is impaired, these are things that loving families disagree about and cause stress or even impact relationships permanently,” said Van Ess.

There should even be instructions for your social media accounts as disagreements could crop up over privacy concerns and sentimental value. Meanwhile, there are awkward digital remnants left floating around on the Internet.

And when you choose people to be your agents and empower them to make decisions, you should make sure you talk to them in detail and that they’re comfortable taking on that responsibility, Van Ess said.

 

7. Becoming a victim of identity theft

Scammers continue to target older Americans, particularly if they start losing their capabilities. Worse, they might even try and take advantage of the death of a family member, scouring obituaries for personal details to exploit, so keep that in mind.

 


 

Scott Morris is an independent journalist whose award-winning reporting has appeared in numerous publications such as local wire service Bay City News and more recently in outlets like the East Bay Express, Hoodline and Oakland Magazine. Living in Oakland, California, he covers a wide variety of topics from policing policy and civil rights law to Bay Area sports.

 

8 Fun Activities for 2017 Grandparents Day

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 by Gina Roberts-Grey

grandmother baking with grandchild

Any day you’re able to spend time with your grandchildren is a special one. But this year, National Grandparents Day on Sept. 10, 2017, is a wonderful reason to enjoy some bonding time with grandchildren of all ages — no matter the weather or number of miles between you.

Wondering how to celebrate the day? Enjoy these creative — and fun — activities with your grandchildren.

 

1. Play home-grown trivia

Write 10 (or more) trivia questions related to your family and/or relationship with your grandchild. Then call, face-time, email or text your grandchild to ask the questions and discuss the answers.

From your favorite food or color to the first time the two of you went to the movies together, engage your grandchild while sharing fun facts about each other. For inspiration, check out these sample questions from Red Tricycle and Aegis Living.

 

2. Hunt for mementos

Enlist the help of your grandchild’s parents to hide mementos of your relationship or time together, photos of the two of you, etc., around the child’s house.

Then while the two of you are on the phone or face-timing each other, give your grandchild “hot” and “cold” clues to help them locate the hidden object in their home. When he or she makes a discovery, the two of you can relive the experiences and memories associated with the item, photo, etc.

 

3. Teach them about their ancestors

Brush up on how to spell and pronounce 5 to 10 words in the language of one of your ancestral countries. Or try your hand at learning how to say a phrase too like “I love you very much” or a phrase that’s special to your relationship with your grandchild.

Then share the words or phrases via email, text, or phone call with your grandchild on Grandparents Day to pass on the knowledge and foster an interest in their heritage. You can also begin building a family tree together with other grandchildren who are interested in learning more about previous generations of their family.

 

4. Play games together

If you’re spending the day in-person, pop some popcorn and gather your grands around the table to play classic games like Monopoly and Chutes and Ladders or newer options like Out of Order from Endless Games ($19.99) and the Family Feud 40th Anniversary edition ($24.99).

 

5. Star in your own reality show

Stream a few episodes of Cupcake Wars while you and your grandchildren bake — and then decorate — your own tasty creations. “I inspire my grandkids to get creative with flavor creations, sprinkle combinations, and the hues of frostings,” says Chris Moss of San Diego, CA. Then have your own in-home sweet contest to see whose combinations take the cake.

 

6. Have a sparks party

Stock up on Wintergreen Lifesavers. “Take your grandchild in a totally dark room or closet and have everyone bite into the Lifesaver with their front teeth,” says Silvana Clark, a speaker on family activities and author of Fun Filled Parenting: A Guide to Yelling Less and Laughing More. Sparks will fly and the kids will squeal with excitement.

 

7. Inspire wacky stories

Clark suggests giving your grandkids some blank 4" by 6" index cards, scissors, old magazines and glue sticks. “Ask them to cut out pictures of anything and glue it to the cards, to wind up with about 20 or more picture cards.”

Divide the cards evenly among the group without looking at them. Pick a person to hold up their card and start telling a story about their card using at least 5 sentences. “Then they point to another person who holds up their card and continues the story,” says Clark. You could craft a story about some toothpaste that falls on a bowl of dog food and a baby eats it.

“The cards help give kids prompts to make the story interesting,” says Clark. “Keep the cards handy and play anytime, because the stories are always different.”

 

8. Look for treasures and leave your own

Take a walk together to gather smooth rocks you take back to your house to paint or decorate them with permanent markers, stickers, beads, etc. “If time permits, take another walk at a community park and leave the rocks along the path,” says Clark. You can also schedule time with your grandchildren to leave your rocks along a path during an upcoming future visit.

“Take your grandchildren back a day or two later to see if their rock has been replaced with that of a new ‘friend,’” says Clark.


No matter how you commemorate National Grandparents Day, Clark emphasizes the importance of nurturing your relationship with your grandchild. “Any time the two of you can be together to learn about each other or just curl up and read a book together creates cherished and lifelong memories for both of you!”

10 Ways to Find Love in your Golden Years

Friday, September 1st, 2017 by Tracy Layden

senior romance

Love in your golden years may seem like something you’re “too old for.” In reality, it’s the perfect time to find your soulmate. You have more time on your hands, know what you want in life, and you’re not afraid to be you. No matter what age you are, love and compassion are important parts of living a happy life.

Whether you're widowed and ready for a new partner, or have just been out of marriage for a while—love doesn’t have an age limit.

What to Keep in Mind

Before becoming fully dedicated to finding a soulmate, know what you are getting into. Keep in mind these helpful tips.

  • Know what you’re looking for in a significant other. After learnings from a lifetime of experiences, mistakes, and lessons, you’ll know exactly what you want in a person as you settle down. Try to find someone who has the same interests or retirement plans as you so you will be compatible together.
  • Be patient. You may start to realize that finding “the one” is easier said than done, but don’t let that bring your hopes down. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t rush into things with the first person you’re interested in either. Try dating for a while so you can truly match with the right person.
  • Let your children know. You want your children to know that you are dating so you can get their support in this decision. They will likely be supportive and understand that you aren’t trying to replace their other parent. You can even ask them for advice on what and what not to do!

Ways to Meet Other Single Seniors

Do you have trouble figuring out exactly how to meet other single seniors? It’s easier than you think. You will meet other single seniors with some creative thinking.

  • Get in touch with Facebook friends. If you use Facebook then take advantage of your huge online social circle. Don’t be afraid to get back in touch with that old friend who you may have shared a connection with many years ago. Reach out to them in a friendly manner and explore the possibilities.
  • Try an online dating service. Meeting someone online is a common way all ages are finding love. Many seniors use online dating as an effective way to connect with the perfect match. Set up your profile with specific details about your interests and let the website take control to match you with compatible people.
  • Attend local senior center events. What better way to meet single seniors than by going to your local senior center? These facilities always hold many different celebrations, holidays, and activities. Senior centers make it easy to find that special someone right in your own community.
  • Go to music and dance nights at local restaurants. Meet other singles over a nice dinner while dancing to live music in the background. This is a great alternative to the typical dinner date and a fun way to create chemistry with that special someone.
  • Sign up with senior travel groups. Do you have any travel destinations to check off your bucket list? Retirement is the perfect time to travel! There are plenty of senior travel groups that make it easy to meet and find your new significant other. What better way to meet and get to know a person than on a relaxing vacation.
  • Start volunteering. If you’re looking for someone who is caring and kindhearted, try volunteering. You will have a chance to meet singles who are dedicated to giving back to the community. With common interests, you will hit it off and get along fast.

Don’t give up on love just because you’re aging. This should be a time to live happily and relax, so make it extra special with your soulmate by your side.


Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.