Category Archives: Senior News

Grab the Brass Ring

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Many of us have retired and then discovered that retirement isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Maybe we got pushed out by downsizing. Maybe we felt the time had come to stop working because we’d reached a certain age. Now many of us miss having a purpose, structure and a reason to get up every day. Certainly we miss the people we worked with and feeling valuable. Often we’re simply bored.

If you go online and Google the words “seniors retired bored” you’ll get more than 7 million hits. But here is a truth: We don’t have to stay retired. If your retirement isn’t what you’d expected, consider alternate paths you’d like to take for the rest of your life.

Think back: What did you truly want to do with your life? Many women were pushed into mother and wife roles. If you’re a man, perhaps a college education wasn’t possible, so you created the best life you could.
But now you have time — and opportunities.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a college or university, inquire about auditing (no credit) classes on topics that interest you. Maybe you’ll even go on to get a degree.

Make a list of everything you know how to do, and offer to teach a class. Reading, swimming safety, woodworking, sewing, bookkeeping, photography, art, home repair and other skills are all valuable to someone else.

Explore volunteer positions in your area and put your skills to use. Look at an AARP site [www.createthegood.org] and either sign up for a volunteer slot or get on the list to be notified of future opportunities. You might be astounded at the number of volunteer requests in your ZIP code. Decide how you’d like to spend your time. Then do it.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service,
P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Reverse Mortgages Under Fire Again

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Last year the AARP sued the Department of Housing and Urban Development because of tactics that were being used to scam seniors in reverse mortgages. Now Consumers Union, the group that brings us Consumer Reports magazine, is asking for stricter oversight of reverse mortgages. While reverse mortgages can be a lifesaver in certain situations, for most senior homeowners that particular route is full of potential danger.

Mortgage origination costs can be astronomical, draining away the equity. Scammers tie home-equity mortgages to other financial products. And, it learned, homeowners were found in default if they failed to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance.

The biggest concern, however, is if only one spouse’s name is on the paperwork. You can’t take a reverse mortgage unless you’re age 62. If only one spouse is that age, then only that person’s name goes on the paperwork. If that older spouse dies, the younger spouse can be evicted from the home if he or she can’t come up with all the money to immediately pay off the mortgage.

Consumers Union is asking for a number of safeguards:
¥ Ensure that the loan is suitable for borrowers and won’t put them at risk.
¥ Establish a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the homeowner.
¥ Outlaw deceptive marketing.
¥ Prohibit mingling a reverse mortgage with other financial products.
¥ Strengthen the pre-mortgage counseling that homeowners are required to have.
¥ And the big one: protect the non-borrowing spouse.

TIP: Did you know you can get an online subscription to Consumer Reports?
It’s much handier than trying to store back copies of the magazine. Visit consumerreports.org to decide if you’re interested. Call 1-800-333-0663 to subscribe instead of putting your credit-card number online.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service,
P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send email to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Alcohol Pros and Cons

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

There aren’t many topics in research that have as conflicting results as the consumption of alcohol. Is it good for us? Bad?

When it comes to bone density in senior women, the jury is no longer out. New research shows that moderate alcohol intake prevents rapid “turnover” of bone. Turnover is the ebb and flow of bone growth — except that in osteoporosis there is more overall loss of bone than gain. One or two drinks a day a few times a week appear to have a significant result in stopping that turnover.

In one of the tests done by researchers, bone density was checked in women who were moderate drinkers. The women were told to stop any drinking for two weeks, at which time bone density was checked again. What researchers found was more bone turnover — or loss — after two short weeks. When the women resumed moderate drinking, within one day the bone turnover rate went back to normal. Their conclusion is that alcohol protects bone growth like estrogen, which is missing in post-menopausal women.

However, alcohol consumption has its drawbacks, depending on the research. In a nearly 30-year study, alcohol consumption of 3 to 6 drinks per week was linked with a small increase in the risk of breast cancer. The more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk.

In another study, light alcohol consumption was associated with a decrease in cancer risk, but moderate and heavy consumption showed an increase in risk. Still another study concluded that moderate alcohol consumption lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Which study to believe? If you’re not sure, ask your doctor if drinking alcohol a few times a week could benefit your health — or not.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service,
P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Your Family Tree

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

One of the best things you can leave future generations of your family is accurate genealogy information.

Creating a family tree isn’t as difficult as it may sound. Start with yourself, your siblings and your parents. Accurate date and place of birth information is crucial to any future hunts. Go back as many generations as you can, at least giving names if you can’t also supply dates and place of birth.

Write down stories about your family members (this will also jog your own memory of facts about the past.) If there are “rumors,” make notes of those as well. Even if you can’t verify whether your mother’s grandfather was a train engineer, someone else might be able to at a later date.

If you have a computer and are comfortable roaming the Internet, Ancestry.com is one of the best places to start. On Ancestry, you can not only research your family, but you can create a family tree to save. The amount of information available is amazing: old military records, city directories, birth and death certificates, photos uploaded by others, Census through 1940 and so much more. There is a fee to subscribe to Ancestry, but if you join for six months and do a little every week, you should finish in that time.

On Family Search (familysearch.org) you will likely find information that you can’t find anywhere else (for example, some of it goes back as far as Europe), but you have to be careful. Use Family Search as a hunting ground and verify information elsewhere.

If you’ve never done genealogy, consider taking a class to get started. This might be a good winter project, with the end result benefiting your family for generations to come.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service,
P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Are You Depressed?

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Depression in seniors is a lot more common than we let on. We point to aging as a reason for how we feel, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are any number of reasons why we might feel depressed: if we’ve recently lost someone in our life, if our health isn’t what it used to be, if we’re taking multiple prescriptions, if we’re alone or if we’ve retired and no longer feel vital.

Depression can impact all areas of our lives: our appetite, interest in activities, how we sleep and so much more. The key is to recognize the symptoms and get treated, because depression is treatable. If you can point to at least one item on the following list as being true, it’s time to talk to your doctor.

–Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
–Losing interest in activities or hobbies you used to enjoy.
–Feeling isolated, or excluding yourself from activities with friends.
–Thinking about death.
–Skipping your medications, meals or baths.
–Feeling anxious, hopeless, guilty or irritable.
–Experiencing new aches and pains, or a worsening of existing ones.
–Having trouble concentrating.

Your doctor might ask a lot of questions and make a number of suggestions. He might recommend (as a place to start) that you get enough sleep or volunteer at a charity agency, make regular visits to friends or visit a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet. The key might be as simple as scheduling regular exercise and taking your medications on time all the time.

If you don’t feel like your normal self, there’s help for you. Please go to your doctor and ask for it.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Air Travel Without the Baggage

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Air travel isn’t much fun anymore, and getting through the airport is the worst of it. Between the crowds, the TSA rules and dragging heavy luggage, some of us just want to stay home and not bother.

There is a way, however, to take care of at least one of the problems with air travel: send your luggage early.

UPS, FedEx and DHL all will pick up your luggage at your home and ship it to your destination for you. UPS, for example, has specially designed boxes to hold your suitcases.

As with anything else, there are both plusses and minuses to using this service.

The benefits:

–No standing in line only to be told that your bag is overweight and will
cost even more.

–No lost bags at the airport.

–No chance of thieving airport personal going through your suitcases and
stealing things or at least rummaging around.

–Less chance of damage to your bags.

–No wasted time at baggage claim and then pushing through the crowd to pull your luggage off a moving carousel.

–No wrestling with luggage through the airport or onto the hotel bus or into your rental car.

The downside:

–The cost. It can be expensive to use a service to get your luggage to your destination so it’s there when you arrive. But it can be a life (or back) saver if dealing with luggage in crowded airports is a hassle for you.

Hint: Have your bag shipped days in advance. That way you’re not paying overnight shipping costs. Also, don’t bother using a “luggage shipper.” They use the same DHL, FedEx or UPS services, but they add on their own handling fees.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Resolutions Made Easy

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

The New Year is coming, along with all that potential for a fresh start in the form of resolutions. It doesn’t need to be difficult to make changes. All we need to do is start small and decide on what can add positives to our life.

Consider asking your doctor what you can do in the New Year to increase your level of health. The answer might be rather simple, such as, “Get some 3-pound hand weights and strengthen your arms and wrists.” Or, “Add one fruit to your diet each day. Canned is OK.” How easy that would be.

Vow to stay in better touch with friends. Make a list of people who’ve started to drift away from lack of contact and make a call or send a letter to each one. Stay in touch with them every month.

Learn a new skill. The senior center or recreation department will have classes of all kinds. Pick one, but give it some thought. Choose something you can stick with. Does it have a writing class? A beginning drawing class? Photography? How about teaching a class and passing along a skill you have? Do something for others on a regular basis. Schedule two or three days a month when you’ll shelve books at the library, socialize dogs at the animal shelter to give them a better chance of being adopted, answer phones at the food bank or anything else you think is meaningful.

Here’s one suggestion with a tangible benefit: Pick one coin denomination, whether it’s a nickel, dime or quarter, and save it in a jar every time you get one in change. Save the coins all year and reward yourself next December.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Appealing a Denied Medicare Claim

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Every quarter you’ll receive a Medicare statement. It’s important that you inspect this form — going over every item — and look for mistakes. Kaiser Health News has issued a report showing how to handle any mistakes you find:

If a claim is denied, you’ll want to take steps to appeal. Hold on to your quarterly statement and circle the items in question.

If you have a computer, go to the Medicare site (www.medicare.gov) and click on Claims & Appeals. You’ll get a list of instructions. Down the page at Get Medicare Forms, you’ll find the forms you need for either a claim or an appeal. You also can file a claim online at the above link.

If your claim is denied, be sure to appeal within 120 days. If you’re denied again, file again, asking for a second appeal. If denied, for your next appeal include a letter describing what the payment was for. Include a copy of the previous denials of your claim.

Your next appeal will be to ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. This likely will be a conference call between you, your doctor and the judge.

Only 2 percent of errors are ever challenged when it comes to denied claims. Those who are denied a claim often give up. It takes energy and perseverance to have the corrections made, but it’s to your benefit, even if it takes a second or third try. It’s on the third try that you’ll have the most success, so don’t give up if you know you’re right.

For free help in filing appeals, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIPS) office. Find them by calling your local county office on aging.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Don’t Catch the Flu!

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

This season’s flu just isn’t going away. It’s getting worse. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those requiring the most hospitalizations from the flu are seniors age 65 and older. The most common underlying medical conditions include cardiovascular disease, obesity, lung disease and metabolic disorders.

Right on the heels of this bad news, however, a national network of caregivers has published a list of suggestions for avoiding the flu. If anyone knows about the flu, it’s the Visiting Angels (www.visitingangels.com)! They’ve created a “Fight the Flu Kit,” and their list makes sense:

— Paper towels: Use these in the bathroom or at the kitchen sink instead of hand towels, which can harbor germs.

— A forehead thermometer: No need to put anything in your mouth. Ask your pharmacist for brand recommendations.

–Hand sanitizers with aloe: sanitize hands without drying skin

–Pens: Carry your own in public when you have to sign something. Don’t touch something used by hundreds of others.

–Lysol spray: Use at home on doorknobs, handles and light switches (spray on a paper towel first). Visiting Angels recommends doing this once a week. I vote for once a day. The virus can live up to 48 hours on plastic and stainless steel.

–Hand soap: not necessarily antibacterial.

Hand sanitizer wipes: Use on everything you touch out in public, like shopping-cart handles and seats, door knobs, sinks, telephones and library books. If you can’t sanitize it, wash your hands as soon as you can. (I hate to say it, but this might be the time to avoid libraries.)

With a little luck and a lot of common sense, we can get through this season without getting the flu!

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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Health Booth Can’t Replace Doctor

SENIOR NEWS LINE
by Matilda Charles

Coming to a Walmart or Sam’s Club near you: a self-service health booth. SoloHealth Stations are interactive kiosks that could keep you from going to your doctor for proper medical care.

There, I’ve said it. I’m against them.

Here’s how they work: You sit at a machine and answer questions about your lifestyle, what you eat and the health of family members. You get cuffed and have your blood pressure checked. Weigh in and get your eyes checked. Learn your BMI — body mass index. Get advice on vitamins and pain management and heartburn. (How convenient that the machine will even tell you what aisle the vitamins are on.)

One-stop health monitoring, say those who are responsible for putting these machines in Walmarts. But is a machine going to notice if you’re looking a bit pale? While it’s taking your blood pressure, will it also listen to your heart and notice just the faintest little blip that shouldn’t be there? How do you ask it
questions?

And what of privacy? You’ll enter a lot of personal information into the machine when you sit down for your do-it-yourself health exam. Where does that information go? Down the road, those same machines will be able to assess your diabetes risk, enroll you in a medical-care policy and who knows what else. There is a proposal to let these machines help you diagnose whether you have high cholesterol — and even pick up an over-the-counter drug for it.

Make yourself a promise: If you’re tempted to use one of these health kiosks, go ahead, but send the results to your doctor. It’s one thing to play with high-tech toys. It’s quite another to turn your health over to an electronic gadget without any human medical intervention.

Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible. Write to her in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to columnreply@gmail.com.

(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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