Aging Is Inevitable: Might as Well Make It Pay!

May 15, 2017  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,

What types of discounts are available to baby boomers, at what age do they kick in and what’s the best way to go about finding them?

— Almost 50

Dear Almost, Read more

Two-Thirds of Seniors Have Been Scammed Online

May 15, 2017  
Filed under Aging Parents, Savvy Senior

Burlington Area Senior Care Experts Offer Senior Cybersecurity, Online Fraud Prevention Tips

Financial and online fraud against aging adults are now considered the “crimes of the century” by the National Council on Aging. Scammers often target seniors because of perceived accumulated wealth, and feel that seniors are less likely to report crimes due to fear of embarrassment. Read more

New Diet May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

August 18, 2016  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy JimMiller

Dear Savvy Senior,

I’ve heard that there’s a new diet that can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. What can you tell me about this? My 80-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s and I want to do everything I can to protect myself.

—Concerned Daughter


Read more

Simple Steps to Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

June 10, 2016  
Filed under Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

Does skin cancer run in families? My 63-year-old brother died of melanoma last year and I’m wondering about my risks of getting this. What can you tell me?

—Younger Sibling

Dear Sibling,

While long-term sun exposure and sunburns are the biggest risk factors for melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – having a sibling or parent with melanoma does indeed increase your risk of getting it two to three times.  Read more

How to Replace Vital Documents That Are Lost or Stolen

May 25, 2016  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

Can you tell me how to go about replacing important lost documents? My wife and I recently downsized to a retirement community and somewhere in the move we lost our Social Security and Medicare cards, birth certificates, marriage license and passports. 

—Worried Ron 

Dear Ron,

Replacing important documents that are lost, stolen or damaged is pretty easy if you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for each document you mentioned, along with some tips to protect you from identity theft, which can happen if your documents end up in the wrong hands.

BIRTH CERTIFICATE Read more

Avoiding Medicare Mistakes When You’re Still Working

March 17, 2016  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

Should I enroll in Medicare at age 65 if I’m still working and have coverage through my employer?

—Almost 65

Dear Almost,

The rules for enrolling in Medicare can be very confusing with all the different choices available today. But when you postpone retirement past age 65, as many people are doing, it becomes even more complicated. Read more

How to Make Your Kitchen Safer and Easier to Use

December 30, 2015  
Filed under Savvy Senior

savy-srBy Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What tips can you recommend for making a kitchen senior-friendly? My wife, who loves to cook, has had several kitchen-related accidents over the past year, which is why we would like to modify to make it safer and more practical. 

—Hungry Husband

Dear Hungry,

There are a number of simple modifications and inexpensive add-ons that can make a big difference in making your kitchen more age-friendly. Depending on your wife’s needs, here are some tips for each aspect of the kitchen.

Floors: If you have kitchen throw rugs, to reduce tripping or slipping, replace them with non-skid floor mats or consider gel mats, which are cushiony and more comfortable to stand on for long periods. GelPro.com and WellnessMats.com offer a nice selection.

Lights: If the lighting in her kitchen is dim, replace the old overhead fixture with a bright new ceiling light, and add under-cabinet task lighting to brighten up her kitchen countertops.

Cabinets and drawers: To reduce bending or reaching, organize your kitchen cabinets and drawers so that the items you most frequently use are within comfortable reach. You can also make your cabinets and pantry easier to access by installing pullout shelves or lazy susans. And D-shaped pull-handles for the cabinets and drawers are also recommended because they’re more comfortable for arthritic hands to grasp than knobs.

Faucet: If you have a twist-handle kitchen faucet, replace it with an ADA compliant single handle faucet. They’re easier to use, especially for seniors with arthritis or limited hand strength. There are also kitchen faucets on the market today (like the Delta Touch20 faucet and Moen MotionSense) that will turn themselves on and off by simply touching the base or moving your hand over a motion sensor. And, for safety purposes, set your hot water tank at 120 degrees to prevent possible water burns.

Microwave and stove: If your microwave is mounted above the stove, consider moving it to a countertop. This makes it safer and easier to reach. And if you’re concerned about your wife remembering to turn the stove off, there are automatic stove shut-off devices you can purchase and install to prevent a fire. See cookstop.com, stoveguardintl.com and pioneeringtech.com for some different options.

If you’re looking to upgrade some of your appliances too, here are some different senior-friendly features you should look for when shopping.

Refrigerator and freezer: Side-by-side doors work well for seniors because the frequently used items can be placed at mid-shelf range for easy access. Pullout adjustable height shelves and a water/ice dispenser on the outside of door are also very convenient.

Stove or cooktop: Look for one with controls in the front so you won’t have to reach over hot burners to turn it off, and make sure the controls are easy to see. Flat surface electric or induction burners, or continuous grates on gas stoves are also great for sliding heavy pots and pans from one burner to the next. And ask about automatic shut off burners.

Oven: Self-cleaning ovens are a plus, and consider a side-swing door model. They’re easier to get into because you don’t have to lean over a hot swing-down door. Also consider a wall-mounted oven to eliminate bending.

Dishwasher: Consider a dishwasher drawer that slides in and out, and is installed on a 6 to 10-inch raised platform. These require less bending to load and unload.

Washer and dryer: Front-load washers and dryers with pedestals that raise the height 10 to 15 inches are also back-savers and easy to access.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

How to Stop Robocalls

September 18, 2015  
Filed under Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,
What can I do to stop the perpetual prerecorded robocalls I keep getting? I’m signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry, but it seems like I still get three or four robo telemarketing calls a day offering lower credit card interest rates, medical alert devices and more.
Fed Up Senior

Dear Fed Up,
Millions of Americans on the National Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov) complain they still receive unwanted calls from robocallers. Why? Because most robocalls are scams run by con artists who are only trying to trick you out of your money and they simply ignore the law.
But there’s good news on the horizon. A few months ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a rule giving telecommunication companies more leeway to block robocalls. Before this ruling, the FCC has always required phone companies to complete all calls, much in the same way the postal service is required to deliver all your mail, even the junk. So, look for your phone service provider to start offering call-blocking tools in the future. But in the meantime, here are some things you can do to reduce those unwanted calls.

  • Set up “anonymous call rejection” option: This is a free landline-calling feature available from most telephone companies. It lets you screen out calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID information—a favorite tactic of telemarketers. To set it up, you usually have to dial *77 from your landline, though different phone services may have different procedures to set it up. Call your telephone service provider to find out if they offer this feature and, if so, what you need to do to enable it.
  • Sign up for Nomorobo: This is a free service and works only if you have an Internet-based VoIP phone service. It does not work on traditional analog landlines or wireless phones. Nomorobo uses a “simultaneous ring” service that detects and blocks robocalls on a black list of known offender numbers. It isn’t 100 percent foolproof, but it is an extra layer of protection. To sign up, or see if Nomorobo works with your phone service provider, visit Nomorobo.com.
  • Buy a robocall-blocking device: If you don’t mind spending a little money, purchase a call-blocking device like the Sentry 2 ($59) or Digitone Call Blocker Plus ($100), sold at Amazon.com. These small devices, which plug into your phone line, allow you to blacklist numbers you no longer wish to receive and set up a whitelist, or manually program the phone to recognize and accept a certain number of safe numbers. Both devices are very effective.
  • Don’t pick up: If you have a caller ID, simply do not answer the phone unless you recognize the number. But if you do answer and it’s a robocall, you should just hang up. Don’t press any numbers to complain or get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, you’re signaling that the autodialer has reached a live number and will probably lead to more robocalls.
  • Get a cellphone app: Get a call-screening app like Truecaller (truecaller.com) or PrivacyStar (privacystar.com) that screens and blocks them.

It’s also important that you report illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or call 888-225-5322 and sign the Consumer Union petition at EndRobocalls.org to pressure phone companies to start offering free call-blocking technology.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Financial Aid for Older Adults Going Back to School

August 2, 2015  
Filed under Savvy Senior

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any financial aid resources you can recommend to baby boomers who are interested in going back to school? I’ve been thinking about taking some classes at a nearby college, and wanted to check into financial aid opportunities first.
Looking For Aid

Dear Looking,
If you know where to look, there’s quite a bit of financial assistance out there that can help working baby boomers and retirees go back to school. Here are some steps to take that can help you find it.
Fill out the FAFSA form: A good place to start is by filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA). This will help you learn about grants, federal student loans (which are a better option than private student loans), even work-study jobs. But, be aware that for most types of federal financial aid you will need to be enrolled at least half time in a degree or academic program to be eligible. To learn more or to fill out an application online, visit fafsa.gov. Or call 800-433-3243 and request a paper FAFSA.
Search for scholarships: While most scholarships are aimed at traditional undergraduates, there are a number of national and local scholarships offered specifically to older, non-traditional students. To find them try fastweb.com and scholarships.com. Both sites will prompt you to enter your birth date to find ones that are age appropriate.
Contact financial aid office: Call the financial aid office at the college or university that you plan to attend to see if they offer any other financial aid options you may be eligible for. Also, find out if they offer any special tuition waivers or discounts for students over age 50. Many community colleges and some four-year colleges offer discounted tuition rates and  many allow older students to audit courses for free.
Seek a tax break: Uncle Sam may also be able to help you with a tax credit, like the annual $2,500 American Opportunity Tax Credit, or the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,000 per year. Or, if you’re not eligible for the tax credits, the government also provides tuition and fees deductions for students that can cover up to $4,000 in expenses.
To learn more, visit the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education Information Center at irs.gov – type in “tax benefits for education” in the search bar to find it. Or call 800-829-3676 and request a copy of IRS Publication 970: Tax Benefits for Education (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf).
Open a 529 account: If you don’t plan to go back to school right away, you should consider opening up a 529 college-savings plan for yourself (see savingforcollege.com). Available in every state, 529s allow you to save money for college tax-free. And in many states you can even deduct part or all of your contribution on your state tax return.
Sign up for a free or low cost MOOC: That’s the acronym for the popular “Massively Open Online Courses,” which offers thousands of certificate and no-certificate courses by the best universities around the world. MOOCs offer free or cheap ways to learn from their instructors anytime, anywhere. See mooc-list.com to search for courses.
Consider lifelong learning: If you’re interested in taking classes just for fun, consider Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs). These are noncredit educational programs designed for retirees that involve no tests or grades, just learning for the pure joy of it.
Usually affiliated with colleges and universities, LLIs offer a wide array of courses in such areas as literature, history, religion, philosophy, science, art and architecture, finance, computers and more.
To find an LLI, call your closest college or search the websites of the two organizations that support and facilitate them—Osher (osher.net) and Road Scholar (roadscholar.org/ein/intro.asp). Together they support around 500 LLI programs nationwide. Contact the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Vermont at 656-2085.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

How to find a new doctor

June 24, 2015  
Filed under Savvy Senior

Dear Savvy Senior,
What resources can you recommend to help me find and research some doctors in my area?
—Shopping for Doctors

Dear Shopping,
Thanks to the Internet, finding and researching doctors is a lot easier than it use to be. Today, there’s a wide variety of websites you can turn to that provide databases of U.S. doctors, their professional medical histories and ratings and reviews from past patients on a number of criteria. Here are some of the best sites available, along with a few additional tips that can help you find the right doctors.
Locating Tips
To help you locate doctors in your area, a good first step, and one that doesn’t require a computer, is to ask for a referral. Contact other doctors, nurses or health care professionals that you know for names of doctors or practices that they like and trust.
You should also call your insurance provider, or visit its website directory to get a list of potential candidates. If you or your parents are Medicare beneficiaries, you can use the Physician Compare tool at medicare.gov/physiciancompare. This will let you find doctors by name, medical specialty or by geographic location that accept original Medicare. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
Once you find a few doctors, you need to call their offices to verify that they still accept your insurance, and ask whether they are accepting new patients.
Research Tools
There are lots of online resources available to help you get more information.
For example, you can find out if a doctor is board certified at the American Board of Medical Specialties at certificationmatters.org or call 866-275-2267. To learn about malpractice claims and disciplinary action, use your state medical board—see fsmb.org/state-medical-boards/contacts.
Here are some other good websites that can help you find and/or research doctors in your area for free.
Healthgrades.com: This comprehensive easy-to-use site provides doctor’s information on education and training, hospital affiliations, board certification, awards and recognitions, professional misconduct, disciplinary action and malpractice records, office locations and insurance plans. It also offers a 5-star rating scale from past patients on a number of issues like communication and listening skills, wait time, time spent with the patient, office friendliness and more.
Vitals.com: Provides background information on doctor’s awards, expertise, hospital affiliations and insurance, as well as patient ratings on measures such as bedside manner, follow-up, promptness, accuracy of diagnosis, and average wait time. There’s also a patient comment section.
RateMDs.com: Provides information on training as well as patient ratings on staff, punctuality, helpfulness and knowledge. Patients can also post questions and answers about doctors and get doctor’s ratings based on patient reviews.
Look Up Tool: If you want to find out how many times a doctor did a particular service and what they charge for it, go to data.cms.gov and click on “Medicare Physician and Other Supplier Look-up Tool” at the top of the page.
AngiesList.com: If you don’t mind spending a little money ($20/per year), Angie’s List is a membership service that provides doctor reviews using an A through F scale.
When searching for a doctor, it’s wise to check out several of these sites so you can get a bigger sampling and a better feel of how previous patients are rating a particular doctor.
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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