CT Senior Help Center Blog

All the latest news and information

The “9PM Routine” Provides Peace of Mind While Protecting Your Home and Valuables

There is a popular newphenomenon sweeping the country that is helping people protect their homes and property. Started in 2016 by the Sherriff’s office in Pasco County, Florida, it’s catching on nationwide because it is simple to do and extremely effective.

Every night at 9:00, everyone in the community is encouraged to lock up their property, turn on lights, and bring in valuables to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to property crimes. This is the new “9PM Routine.”

What to do:

Vehicles

  • Remove keys, wallets, cash, phones, phone chargers, sunglasses, garage door openers, and all other valuables from the vehicles.
  • If you can’t remove items of value, lock them in the trunk or glove compartment.
  • Ensure all vehicle windows are closed and locked.
  • Store your vehicle keys away from doors and windows. Some criminals use scanners to gain the code for your remote key fob. 

Property

Don’t leave property in your yard that may be attractive to thieves.

  • Close and lock house and garage doors and windows.
  • Turn on outside lights. Motion activated lights work great!
  • Keep shrubbery around your home trimmed. 
  • Set up a home security system. They are easier to use and more cost-effective than ever.
  • Have a neighbor grab your mail and keep an eye on your house when you’re away.
  • Beware of door-to-door scams.
  • Report all suspicious activities.

Angela DeLeon, a Crime Prevention Specialist at People’s United Bank, likes the 9PM Routine because it’s an easy and engaging way to help people protect their property. Angela also recommends that people make sure all windows are locked in the house, and if they are open for fresh air, to make sure that they are pinned so that nobody can raise them high enough for a person to enter the home. Also, store all ladders outside in a locked garage at night.

Community effort

Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors about the 9PM Routine. Call your local police department. Ask if they are participating, and if they aren’t, ask them to join the movement. Commit to the routine seven days a week. And if you are social media-savvy, post, share, and tag! You’ll feel better, and you’ll feelsafer. Who couldn’t use a little feeling better and safer ... particularly now?

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U.S. CENSUS 2020 AND CORONAVIRUS . . . WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The novel coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on life as we know it . . . or knew it. Those 55 and over have been hit particularly hard. High-risk status and other concerns have led most seniors to choose to hunker down. It’s a great decision health-wise, but it can also lead to less-apparent complications. One of which being an accurate representation of seniors in the U.S. 2020 Census. 

The door-to-door method of collecting census data has been temporarily halted due to the pandemic, giving seniors one less option to participate. Also, with many senior centers and programs closed or suspended due to the virus, plus restrictions on entering nursing homes and skilled-care facilities, there are more roadblocks than ever to achieving accurate representation from seniors.

This is the first time the majority of Americans will fill out their census information online. By now, everyone has received official U.S. Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. A majority of seniors, however, would rather not complete the census on a computer.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 56% of those 65 and older aren’t comfortable with an online response. “The concerns over privacy and cybersecurity will have to be overcome, and those concerns are highest for those over 50,” says Steve Jost, a former Census Bureau official. 

What the census means for you

It is vital to the senior community to have everyone participate in this important decennial process. The data collected by the census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment), and it is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. That includes money for schools, roads, hospitals—and programs that specifically aid older Americans.

Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people and those age 65 and older, is the largest federal program that uses census statistics to determine funding. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the second-largest program that uses census statistics to allocate funds, and third is Medicare Part B.

In addition, adult day care, community center lunches, home-delivered meals, protection and remedy from abuse—both physical and financial—are mostly funded by Social Services Block Grants. The funding levels for these grants, in part, are derived from statistics produced by the Census Bureau. 

The State of Connecticut receives about $10.7 billion in federal aid based on the census. 

Ask for computer help if needed

If you aren’t as comfortable as you’d like to be using a computer, try to get some assistance from your more computer-savvy family members and friends. If you still have concerns, you can also complete the census by mail or on the phone. The number is 844-330-2020.

Watch out for scammers

A very small percentage of people who knock on doors claiming to be from the Census Bureau are looking to gather personal information so they can steal from you. Door-knocking is scheduled to resume soon, so keep your guard up. Real census employees won’t ask for your full Social Security number, for money or donations, or for bank or credit card numbers.

Check to make sure that the person has a valid identification badge with his or her photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you still suspect fraud, call the Census Bureau at 800-923-8282 to speak to a representative.

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New IRS webpages

The IRS has established www.irs.gov/coronavirus to

provide information specifically related to the pandemic.

News releases, statements, and guidance will be collected

there. The initial statement concerned health savings

accounts and high-deductible health plans. “Health

plans that otherwise qualify as HDHPs will not lose that

status merely because they cover the cost of testing for

or treatment of COVID-19 before plan deductibles have

been met.”

The IRS also noted that, as in the past, any vaccination

costs continue to count as preventive care and can

be paid for by an HDHP.

Guidance was also provided for the “Families First

Coronavirus Response Act,” which was signed by

President Trump on March 18. Key elements:

• Paid Sick Leave for Workers. For COVID-19-related

reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid

sick leave and expanded paid childcare leave when

employees’ children’s schools are closed or childcare

providers are unavailable.

• Complete Coverage. Employers receive 100%

reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.

Health insurance costs are also included in the

credit. Employers face no payroll tax liability. Selfemployed

individuals receive an equivalent credit.

• Fast Funds. Reimbursement will be quick and

easy to obtain. An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax

offset against payroll taxes will be provided. Where

a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as

quickly as possible.

Finally, the IRS created https://www.irs.gov/businesses/

gig-economy-tax-center to collect in one place the links

relevant to self-employed gig workers and those who use

digital platforms in their employment.

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The 2020 Report of the Social Security Trustees

In April, the Social Security Trustees issued their annual

report. Their figures and conclusions are based upon last

year’s experience, and do not take into account the effects

of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The report for 2021

will certainly be much worse, because the high unemployment

we are experiencing now must lead to a major drop

in payroll tax revenue. It’s also possible that the pandemic

will cause an increase in disability claims and accelerate

early retirements, increasing the benefit payouts. Finally,

there are serious proposals to suspend payroll taxes for a

period of time, though such proposals usually include a

proviso for a transfer to the Social Security trust fund from

general tax revenue to offset lost collections.

That is all speculative. Here is what we know for certain.

Key findings

Because the American economy was strong in 2019, Social

Security’s reserves increased by $2 billion during the year,

reaching $2.9 trillion. Under the intermediate economic

assumptions, the trust fund will be sufficient to pay full

benefits until 2034. Because disability claims have fallen

sharply since 2010, the disability insurance trust fund

should be sufficient until 2065, which is 13 years later

than last year’s projection. The combined program would

go bust in 2035, at which point payroll taxes would only

be able to cover 79% of promised benefits.

Reserves in Medicare’s hospital insurance fund fell by

$6 billion, to $195 billion at the end of 2019. This fund’s

projected depletion date is 2026.

During 2019, total benefits were paid as follows: $903

billion in Social Security benefits, $322 billion in Medicare’s

hospital insurance, $145 billion in disability payments, and

$463 billion in supplemental medical insurance.

These figures might seem pretty good, but the fact

is that these programs are facing difficult demographic

hurdles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

announced that the year 2019 saw the fewest number of

babies born in the United States in 35 years, just 3.745

million. That is a 1% drop from the year earlier. Except

for 2014, the U.S. birth rate has fallen steadily since 2007.

Accordingly, in their actuarial assumptions the trustees

reduced the expected total fertility from 2.0 to 1.95 births

per woman. That means fewer taxpayers paying into the

system in the future as current workers reach their retirement

age.

At its peak in 2010, the Social Security trust fund was large

enough to cover four years of benefits. Now it is less than

3½ years. The downward

slopes in the graph for the years after 2020 is based upon

the current demographics and cost projections, not the

effects of the pandemic. That will only make it worse.

Perspective

In 1982 it was projected that full

promised benefits would not be payable by July 1983. A

commission was created, headed by Alan Greenspan, to

make recommendations to head off the disaster.

In the spring of 1983, just three months away from

insolvency, those recommendations were turned into a

bipartisan legislative compromise. Key elements included:

• accelerating a previously scheduled tax rate increase;

• phasing in a higher normal retirement age, going

from 65 to 67 (that phase-in is not yet complete);

• requiring government workers to pay into Social

Security; and

• up to one-half of Social Security benefits were made

potentially subject to income tax for higher income

retirees. The thresholds for taxation were not indexed

for inflation, so over time more and more retirees

are making these additional payments to the Social

Security trust funds during their retirement.

The effects of these changes were dramatic, as the

graph shows. Another key change, one not anticipated by

the Greenspan commission, was the boom in women’s

workforce participation in the late 1980s and 1990s. More

women working meant more Social Security taxes collected,

even though the benefit payouts proceeded as projected.

What’s more, there is an underappreciated marriage

penalty built into Social Security benefits for two-earner

couples. Each spouse must choose between his or her own

earned benefit, or the benefits determined by the earnings

record of the other spouse.

On the one hand, given that 1983 rescue plan for Social

Security was achieved with only three months left before

insolvency, one might think that 15 years should be plenty

of time to correct the actuarial imbalances in the current

system. On the other hand, the country was much less

polarized in the 1980s; bipartisanship and compromise

were more regular features on the national political scene.

The 1983 Social Security tax increases followed 1981’s

bipartisan Economic Recovery Tax Act, which had cut

taxes for nearly all Americans. That may well have made

the increases more palatable.

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How to keep grandkids safe at beaches and pools this summer

With the recent sad news about the drowning of former Olympic skier Bode Miller’s 19-month-old daughter Emeline during a neighborhood party in California comes a potent reminder that water accidents can happen very quickly.

There’s nothing that kids love more than a day at the pool or beach… and if you suggest a fun-filled, water-logged adventure, your stock may rise in your grandchild’s eyes. But kids are too busy enjoying themselves to think about safety — that’s your responsibility.

“Think about how you will manage things before you allow swimming, and discuss it with your grandchildren before you allow them in the water,” said B. Chris Brewster, a moderator for Water Safety USA, a group of nonprofit and governmental organizations focused on water safety and drowning prevention. “Let them know the rules. Remember, you’re the lifeguard for your grandchildren when you take them swimming.”

If safety is overlooked, a special day can turn tragic, even if lifeguards are present: Drowning is the second-highest cause of unintentional death for children under age 14, with nearly 1,000 kids succumbing annually. Thousands more are rushed to ERs due to near-drownings.

Fortunately, drowning is preventable. Here’s what you should know:

Watch Your Grandchildren Constantly

Designating a water watcher to keep an eye on children at all times can reduce the likelihood of drowning, according to Water Safety USA. A water watcher should be able to rescue someone in distress or alert someone nearby (like a lifeguard) who has the ability to do so.

It’s important to formally designate one water watcher to ensure that someone is doing the job. Take shifts, if need be.

“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” Brewster said. “Reports of drowning accidents often involve lots of parents nearby who were distracted by conversation and other activities.”

When you’re the water watcher, don’t chat with friends or check your smartphone.

“It takes less time to drown than finish a conversation or send a text,” said David Hill, a pediatrician in Wilmington, N.C.

Don’t Over-Rely on Lifeguards

The presence of lifeguards may provide a false sense of security, if you decide to lie back and enjoy the sunshine. You still need to watch your grandchildren constantly.

“Even the best lifeguard cannot see everything at all times,” said Tom Gill, spokesperson for the United States Lifesaving Association. “Distractions such as a medical emergency on the beach, multiple victim rescues, patron questions and incidents, along with massive crowds on some beaches, diminish the ability of the lifeguard to maintain constant vigilance on every swimmer.”

Disregard Drowning Stereotypes

Drowning is almost always a silent occurrence, not the loud splashing and shouting often depicted in the movies and on TV. Children slip below the surface without making a sound.

“If you think, ‘I’m going to look up when I hear them drowning, that isn’t going to happen,'” Hill said. “Kids drown silently and quickly. They go under the water, and they never come up.”

People who are drowning rarely call for help.

“They are too busy trying to keep themselves afloat,” Brewster said. “Non-swimmers and poor swimmers who suddenly find themselves in water that is overhead can submerge immediately and silently.”

Stay Within Arm’s Reach of Youngsters

Wear your bathing suit and get in the water with small children. Sitting in a chair at the water’s edge near an inexperienced swimmer isn’t good enough.

“Children who have limited, or no, swimming skills must be within arm’s reach because they can easily slip into water over their head and quickly, quietly submerge,” Brewster said.

Your close presence is even more important at the beach, where rough waves or undertow may knock a child down.

“Small children should never enter ocean or open water by themselves,” Gill said. “The coasts are incredibly dynamic environments that look safe but may have multiple dangers lurking beneath.”

Older Kids Need Monitoring, Too

Just because your older grandchild can beat you in a race across the pool doesn’t mean he’s exempt from your watchful eye. It’s important to keep tabs on all grandchildren.

“Adolescents who are strong swimmers may be able to safely enjoy the water most of the time, but accidents happen,” Brewster said. “Medical issues, trauma from horseplay and other things may cause even a strong adult swimmer to suddenly become incapacitated.”

Your grandchild may be out of his element in the ocean, so it’s crucial to be vigilant at the beach.

“Children and adults who consider themselves good swimmers are not always prepared for the many variables consistent with open-water beaches,” Gill said. “Rip currents, troughs, wave action and drop-offs are just a few of the reasons to carefully watch children as they swim in the ocean.”

Swim Only When Lifeguards Are Present

Unguarded swimming pools can be dangerous, but unguarded beaches are even more deadly. In 2016, 153 people drowned on beaches without lifeguards on duty.

If you get to the beach after hours, don’t allow anyone into the water, not even up to her knees. Your grandchild may be pulled into the surf without anyone nearby to rescue her.

“Lifeguards are trained first responders,” Gill said. “I doubt [anyone] would live in a community without police or fire protection. Why would anyone enter the water without lifeguard protection?”

Take Group Breaks

When you need to go to the bathroom or make a phone call, get your grandchildren out of the water, so you’re certain they aren’t struggling. Insist they come with you, even if they promise to stay dry until you get back.

“Don’t assume they’re running around the pool, or up and down the beach, and not going into the water because you said they shouldn’t go in the water,” Hill said. “They should be in your sight and in your field of attention at all times.”

By Lisa Fields
Lisa Fields is a writer who covers psychology and health matters as they relate to the workplace. She publishes frequently in WebMD and Reader’s Digest.
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Sunscreen Safety Tips for Older Adults

Summer is a season when most families spend a lot of time outdoors. Picnics, baseball games, family reunions, and trips to the beach are fun intergenerational activities. One thing that isn’t much fun is sunburn or sun poisoning.

Older adults grew up in a time when the benefits of sunscreen weren’t widely known. Today we know more about the importance of sun safety. The need for protection is especially true for seniors who often have very fragile skin. Some seniors also take medications that have sun sensitivity as a side effect.

Here are sunscreen basics that seniors and their caregivers should know in order to protect their skin from the summer sun.

Sunscreen Basics for Senior Safety

1. Older adults need sunscreen.

A popular myth is that sun damage that leads to skin cancer occurs during childhood. If a senior grew up not using sunscreen, they might not think they need it now either. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over half of skin cancer related deaths are people over the age of 65. Because the risk of developing or dying from skin cancer rises each year, everyone needs to use sunscreen.

2. Sun damage can happen fast.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage in as little as 15 minutes. So even if you are only running outside to water plants quickly or pick a few flowers, apply sunscreen.

Some UV rays can even penetrate glass. That means if you will be sitting inside near a large window or riding in a car, you likely need sunscreen.

Finally, don’t let cloudy days fool you. The sun’s rays can still affect you. Layer on the sunscreen before going out.

3. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.

A sunscreen’s SPF (sun protection factor) determines how well it can absorb and reflect the sun’s rays. A sunscreen that is labeled SPF 30 absorbs 97% of the sun’s burning rays.

It’s also important to know that wearing sunscreen with a higher SPF does not mean you can stay outdoors longer without applying more. You’ll still need to reapply it to protect your skin.

4. Protect skin from UVA and UVB rays.

When you are purchasing sunscreen, look for one that offers broad-spectrum protection. That will help you stay safe from both UVA and UVB rays.

UVA rays penetrate the lower levels of the skin. They account for 95% of rays. UVB rays make up a smaller percentage of UV rays, but they cause most sunburns and sun damage.

5. Utilize different sunscreen formats.

Research shows there is very little difference in effectiveness between sunscreen sticks, sprays, gels, and creams. Buying several formats can make it easier to protect small or hard-to-reach body parts, such as the back of the ears.

Sunscreen sticks are good for ears and noses, and are also easy to take with you on bike rides and walks. Sprays and creams can cover larger surface areas more efficiently, such as the back, arms, and legs. Gels tend to adhere better on areas with hair, like the hairline and scalp.

6. Follow the directions on the bottle.

A mistake most people make when applying sunscreen is using too little. You should layer it on thickly instead. Also reapply it every two to four hours as directed on the bottle. If you are swimming or sweating heavily, you need to reapply it more often.

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How to not “waste” a crisis

Every cloud allegedly has a silver lining. Estate planners have discovered a potential silver lining in the current economic crisis. Estate planning strategies now may be implemented at a much reduced tax cost, because asset values have fallen.

            At today’s lower asset values, much more may be transferred via gift before breaching the taxable threshold of $11.58 million per person.  It’s not just publicly traded stocks that are down in price. Nonmarketable securities, the value of family businesses, and real estate are down similar percentages, according to estate planner Alan Gassman, as reported in Tax Notes. For those who have been contemplating major gifts within the family, this may prove an opportune moment to pull the trigger.

            Roth IRA conversions.  One response to this year’s loss of the stretch IRA for long-term wealth management has been the recommendation to convert retirement assets to Roth IRAs. The immediate tax cost of such a conversion can be hard to swallow. Today’s lower asset values mean lower taxes for conversions now. Should prices recover after the pandemic recedes, all that gain will be tax free.          

            Several estate planning strategies rely upon the “Section 7520” interest rate in determining taxable values of transfers.  As the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates to help the economy, the 7520 rate has fallen, standing at 1.2% for April 2020 (it was 2.2% in February). Lower interest rates improve the math for some strategies, especially when coupled with reduced asset values.

            GRATs. In a grantor-retained annuity trust, the trust creator is paid a fixed dollar amount for a term of years. If the grantor survives the term, assets pass to the remainder beneficiaries and won’t be included in the grantor’s taxable estate. The GRAT is a useful tool for transferring asset appreciation in excess of the 7520 rate without further transfer taxation.

            Asset freezes.  A grantor may sell an asset to an intentionally defective grantor trust in exchange for a note. If the note equals the value of the asset, there will be no gift tax, it will be a sale for full consideration. The interest rate on the note should match IRS guidelines—for April 2020, the mid-term interest rate is 1.9%. The note will be included in the grantor’s estate, but asset appreciation in the trust assets will pass without further transfer tax, freezing the taxable value. The grantor will owe tax on the trust income, which may further deplete the taxable estate.

            On paper, these strategies appear to confer substantial tax benefits. However, estate planners have been reporting that many clients have not looked at the opportunity with enthusiasm.  There is just too much uncertainty about how the pandemic and its economic fallout will play out. Still, if you’ve been thinking about taking a major estate planning step, this could be an ideal time to move ahead with the plan.

 (May 2020)

© 2020 M.A. Co.  All rights reserved.

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Seniors, Getting Off the Sofa Brings Big Health Benefits

 

 

 

 

Physical activity may help seniors live longer and healthier -- and exercise doesn't have to be intense, two new studies say.

"Finding a way to physically move more in an activity that suits your capabilities and is pleasurable is extremely important for all people, and especially for older people who may have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases," said Barry Franklin, past chair of the American Heart Association's Council on Physical Activity and Metabolism.

Brisk walking, for example, can help manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and improve blood sugar, Franklin said in an AHA news release.

Here's the evidence:

One study of more than 1,200 U.S. adults, average age 69, found that those who did at least 150 minutes a week in moderate to vigorous physical activity were 67% less likely to die of any cause during the study period than those who didn't do that amount of exercise.

However, even light exercise was beneficial. Each 30-minute session of light-intensity physical activity -- such as household chores or casual walking -- was associated with a 20% lower risk of death from any cause.

In comparison, each additional 30 minutes of inactivity was associated with a 32% higher risk of death from any cause, according to the study.

The results were scheduled for presentation Thursday at an American Heart Association meeting, in Phoenix.

"Promoting light-intensity physical activity and reducing sedentary time may be a more practical alternative among older adults," said study author Joowon Lee, a researcher at Boston University.

The other study -- also scheduled to be presented at the AHA meeting -- included more than 6,000 U.S. women, average age 79.

Those who walked 2,100 to 4,500 steps a day were up to 38% less likely to die from heart attack, heart failure and stroke than those who took fewer than 2,100 steps a day.

Those who walked more than 4,500 steps a day reduced their risk by 48%, according to the study.

"Despite popular beliefs, there is little evidence that people need to aim for 10,000 steps daily to get cardiovascular benefits from walking. Our study showed that getting just over 4,500 steps per day is strongly associated with reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease in older women," said study lead author Andrea LaCroix, a professor and chief of epidemiology at the University of California, San Diego.

"Taking more steps per day, even just a few more, is achievable, and step counts are an easy-to-understand way to measure how much we are moving," LaCroix said in the release.

She said there are many inexpensive wearable devices on the market.

"Our research shows that older women reduce their risk of heart disease by moving more in their daily life, including light activity and taking more steps. Being up and about, instead of sitting, is good for your heart," LaCroix said.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about exercise.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 5, 2020

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Pandemic Delaying Medical Care of Older Americans

alzheimer's couple

 

 

 

(HealthDay News) -- The coronavirus pandemic has led many older adults to postpone medical care, a new survey finds. 

The University of Chicago survey found that 55% of U.S. adults aged 70 and older experienced a disruption in their medical care during the first month of social distancing. 

Thirty-nine percent put off non-essential care and 32% delayed primary or preventive care since social distancing began. And 15% said they delayed or canceled essential medical treatment, the survey found.

"The first month of social distancing in America certainly saved lives, and yet it also created a situation where many older adults are not getting the care they need to manage serious health conditions," said Dr. Bruce Chernof. He is president and CEO of the SCAN Foundation, an independent charity focused on care of older adults, that co-sponsored the survey.

"As our nation grapples with when and how to reopen, the health care system will reckon with unaddressed medical needs and learn how to maximize new protocols to care for older adults with complex needs in flexible, person-centered ways," Chernof added in a foundation news release.

The researchers found that older adults are worried about delays in getting support to manage their medical conditions. Many doctors, however, are using telehealth to keep tabs on their patients. 

Nearly 25% said that their doctors had reached out to them since the start of the outbreak to check on how they were doing. 

More than 20% had a telehealth appointment since the start of the pandemic. And nearly 50% said it was like having a personal visit. Only 4% said it was worse. 

Terry Fulmer is president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, a survey co-sponsor. "Health care organizations have stepped up quickly to help older adults get their care needs met with this important technology," she said.

"Comfort levels with telehealth vary, but we are seeing rapid uptake in both urgent and primary care delivery. The survey results offer a promising glimpse into the future," Fulmer added.

In all, 83% of older adults said they were ready to self-isolate for several months, if necessary. 

A month into social distancing, however, 33% said they felt lonely. To combat it, many were spending more time on hobbies, watching TV, chatting with family and being physically active. 

Older Americans also said that health care professionals and non-elected public health officials were the most trustworthy, not elected officials. 

The survey of 1,039 adults was conducted April 10 to 15. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.28 percentage points.

More information

For more on telehealth, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: John A. Hartford Foundation/The SCAN Foundation, news release, April 27, 2020

 

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STAND UP AND BE COUNTED!

What you need to know about u.s. census 2020 and why it is vitally important to seniors

April 1st is rapidly approaching, and it’s not just April Fool’s Day this year. It is also Census Day 2020, and this is the first time the majority of Americans will fill out their census information online. Official U.S. Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail, is on the way. As always, if you don’t reply by a certain date, they’ll come to you in person. That being said, there is some concern about the challenges of getting older people to participate this time around.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau survey found that 56% of those 65 and older aren’t comfortable with an online response and prefer to fill out a paper census form—which is still an option in addition to providing the information by telephone. 

“The concerns over privacy and cybersecurity will have to be overcome, and those concerns are highest for those over 50,” says Steve Jost, a former Census Bureau official. 

What the census means for you

It is vital to the senior community to have everyone participate in this important decennial process. The data collected by the census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment), and it is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities. That includes money for schools, roads, hospitals—and programs that specifically aid older Americans. 

Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people and those age 65 and older, is the largest federal program that uses census statistics to determine funding. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the second-largest program that uses census statistics to allocate funds, and third is Medicare Part B. 

In addition, adult day care, community center lunches, home-delivered meals, protection and remedy from abuse—both physical and financial—are mostly funded by Social Services Block Grants. The funding levels for these grants, in part, are derived from statistics produced by the Census Bureau. 

Watch out for scammers

A very small percentage of people who knock on doors claiming to be from the Census Bureau are looking to gather personal information so they can steal from you. Real census employees won’t ask for your full Social Security number, for money or donations, or for bank or credit card numbers. 

Check to make sure that the person has a valid identification badge with his or her photograph, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you still suspect fraud, call the Census Bureau at 800-923-8282 to speak to a representative.

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Planning for a Long Life

by Thomas Gerrity


Not many years ago, the typical retirement age, 65, was viewed as the onset of old age. Today, gerontologists define matters differently: If you’re between the ages of 65 and 74, you are one of the “young-old.” To be considered “old”, you need to be in the 75-to-84 age bracket. After that, you’re known, demographically, as the “oldest-old.” Simply put, your chances are good that you are going to live many years in retirement.

 

But will they be healthy years?

Who assumes responsibility?

If illness or injury strikes, you want to know that there is someone on hand to manage the day-to-day finances and your investments. Your spouse might want to assume the responsibilities. However, that may be an unreasonable burden if he or she is also responsible for being your caregiver. And, of course,

there is the question of his or her health. A long-term plan needs to take into account the fact that a spouse might not be alive or healthy when he or she is needed. Single people face similar questions. They may not want to burden children or grandchildren with their finances and their care. Is there even family close by able to take on the responsibilities?

 

When you don’t take action

If you have not done any planning beforehand, and you become disabled, legal proceedings may be necessary in order to have someone step in and take over for you. A guardian will have to be named to manage your assets. It’s not hard to come up with a list of serious disadvantages to this scenario.

First, the process can be protracted and expensive. Second, because the legal

proceedings are a matter of public record, you and your family may be exposed to unwanted publicity. Finally, and most important, because you may not be able to make your wishes known, the person whom you would want to handle your financial affairs may not be the person chosen by the court. As a result, your financial assets may be put at risk. Decisions may be made by individuals not in the best position to make them. Indecision or lack of attention may have the same negative impact on your income, your asset base or both.

 

One plan: a durable power

A durable power of attorney is a legal document in which you give someone the authority to act on your behalf in the circumstances that you designate. Although a regular power of attorney lapses in the event that you become mentally incompetent, a durable power remains in effect.The authority that you grant to your “attorney-in-fact” can be as sweeping or as narrow as you wish. The power to pay bills, collect debts, prepare tax returns, borrow funds, purchase insurance and fund a trust are among the most common powers granted. Parents who want to take advantage of the federal annual gift tax exclusion and make gift-tax-free

transfers to children and/or grandchildren of up to $14,000 in 2015 should spell out that authority in the durable power-of-attorney document. A durable power of attorney can be an effective tool. Unfortunately, some institutions require that the power be executed on their particular form—simple if you’re in good health, perhaps impossible if you’re incapacitated. Then, too, over several years a question of the validity of the durable power may arise.

 

A comprehensive plan: a living trust

For long-term financial and estate management, give consideration to a revocable living trust. This arrangement offers you comprehensive protection that can last as long as it is needed. You can create a living trust now. The agreement is revocable—you can make changes at any time, even cancel it if the need arises. Initially, the agreement calls for you to retain full control over all investment decisions regarding the assets in the trust. The trustee’s responsibilities may, if you wish, be limited to everyday investment chores and recordkeeping duties. If you become incapacitated, or upon your request, the trustee will assume full management of your assets, acting as you have directed in the trust agreement. In addition to handling your investments, the trustee’s responsibilities may be extremely wideranging. You may authorize your trustee to use trust income to employ household help, hire nurses and even pay your monthly bills.

 

Q&A on Advance Directives

While you are doing your planning, you also may want to consider creating an advance directive regarding your future medical care.

 

What are Advance Directives?

• “Advance directive” is a general term that refers to your oral and written instructions about your future medical care, in the event that you become unable to speak for yourself. Each state regulates the use of advance directives differently. There are two types of advance directives: a living will and a medical power of attorney.

 

What is a Living Will?

• In a living will you put in writing your wishes about medical treatment should you be unable to communicate at the end of life. Your state law may define when the living will goes into effect and may limit the treatments to which the living will applies. Your right to accept or refuse treatment is protected by both constitutional and common law.

 

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

• A medical power of attorney enables you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions about your medical care if you cannot make those decisions yourself. This type of advance directive may also be called a “health care proxy” or “appointment of a health care agent.” The person you appoint may be called your health care agent, surrogate, attorney-in-fact, or proxy. In many states the person whom you appoint is authorized to speak for you at any time you are unable to make your own medical decisions, not only at the end of life.

 

Do I need an Advance Directive?

• It’s a matter of personal choice. There are many benefits to creating advance directives. They give you a voice in decisions about your medical care when you are unconscious or too ill to communicate. As long as you are able to express your own decisions, your advance directive will not be used, and you can accept or refuse any medical treatment. But if you become seriously ill, you may lose the ability to participate in decisions about your own treatment.

 

What laws govern the use of Advance Directives?

• Both federal and state laws govern the use of advance directives. The federal law, the Patient Self-Determination Act, requires health care facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funds to inform patients of their rights to execute advance directives. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws recognizing the use of advance directives. If you are interested in finding out more about advance directives and the laws governing them in your state, the not-for-profit organization Partnership for Caring has a Web site at http://www.partnershipforcaring.org, or you can call them at 1-800-989-WILL.

Taking action It’s important to make your plans while you’re able to do so. Talk over the issues presented here with those closest to you, as well as with your financial and legal advisors and an finstitution, experienced in establishing living trusts for our clients.

 

© 2020 M.A. Co. All rights reserved.

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IRS is knocking

The IRS does not make telephone calls to taxpayers. Anyone who receives a call purporting to be from the IRS demanding immediate tax payment should hang up the phone; it’s an imposter running a scam. Another tip-off is a demand that the tax be paid in gift cards—that is not how the IRS works. Three Pennsylvania residents were recently indicted for wire fraud for impersonating IRS agents, for example. 

However, the IRS will make in-person contact. In February the Service announced that it is stepping up a program of agents making unannounced face-to-face visits to high-income taxpayers who have not filed their tax returns for 2018 and earlier years. “High income” is defined as $100,000 and up. The announcement did not specify whether the calls would be at the taxpayer’s home or place of business. 

In general, these taxpayers will have been contacted earlier by mail, and so already should be aware that they are in tax trouble. Real IRS revenue officers will always provide two forms of official credentials, and both include a serial number and photo of the IRS employee. Taxpayers have the right to see each of these credentials.

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GO TAKE A HIKE!

Sleeping Giant CT

by Rich Gelfand 

With the warmer weather rapidly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about getting back outside. One of the most rewarding outdoor activities is just a stone’s throw away, and it’s almost always free...hiking! There are numerous local hiking trails, ranging from easy and flat to challenging with inclines. Pick the right hiking trail for you and explore!

Hiking usually offers spectacular views and the opportunity to become one with nature. It’s also a great choice as exercise for your overall health. Several important reasons hiking is beneficial include:

  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness in your lungs, heart, and blood vessels;
  • Increased muscle strength and bone density, as well as slowing down bone density loss;
  • Lowering the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, arthritis, and many cancers.

Hiking is also an activity you can do by yourself or with others; it’s a great way to bond with friends and family, while also bonding with the great outdoors! It is important, however, to choose the right level for everyone. Sticking with easy, flatter trails is a safe way to start off. Also, don’t forget the essentials: food, water (there’s nothing like a picnic on a beautiful day), sunscreen, binoculars, bug repellant, weather-appropriate clothing … and your cellphone. If you have a smartphone, you’ll want to take pictures of the beauty you will see; it’s also good to have handy in case you need to get in touch with someone for any reason.

A great resource for information on hiking trails both local and elsewhere is alltrails.com. They also offer an easy-to-use app. A few beautiful trails located in Fairfield County include:

  • Mianus River Park — This 391-acre park straddles both Greenwich and Stamford and features woodlands, wetlands and riverbanks. You'll find a network of rolling trails that run along the river, winding past vernal pools, outcroppings, wooded ledges and small knolls. The paths are hard packed and easy to navigate, making it a great place to hike with kids. The park also features a 2.6-mile "nature trail" that includes 12 educational stations with information about the local ecology and wildlife. There are two entrance points, one in Greenwich and one in Stamford.
  • Mianus River Park, 360 Merriebrook Lane, Stamford, CT 06902; 450 Cognewaugh Road, Greenwich CT, 06807
  • Devil’s Den — At 1,756 acres, this preserve is the Nature Conservancy's largest in Connecticut. You can choose from a wide variety of loops depending on the distance and type of terrain you want to explore. The Laurel Trail Loop around Godfrey Pond is a little over a mile, and the views around the pond are spectacular year-round.
  • Devil's Den, 33 Pent Road, Weston CT, 06883, 203-226-4991
  • Tarrywile Park — The park is 722 acres and features trails that wind past ponds, fields and orchards toward spots with amazing views of downtown Danbury and Candlewood Lake in the distance. You'll also find the Tarrywile Mansion and Hearthstone Castle, both listed on the National Register for Historic Preservation. 
  • Tarrywile Park, 70 Southern Blvd, Danbury CT, 06810, 203-744-3130
  • Aspetuck Land Trust  — The Aspetuck Land Trust has preserved over 1,700 acres of land, open space, and natural resources in Easton, Fairfield, Weston, and Westport. Visitors are welcome to explore all of their 45 trailed preserves from dawn to dusk.
  • Aspetuck Land Trust, Leonard Schine Preserve, 1 Glendinning Rd, Westport CT, 06880
  • Lake Mohegan — This park offers 170 wooded acres that surround a freshwater lake, close to the Merritt Parkway. The Cascades at the northern end is a short section of rapids on the Mill River, which is the river that feeds into the lake. This is a very popular place for families and dogs, so feel free to bring Fido as long as you keep him on his leash. There are two main trails: Red, which is 1.6 miles and follows the edges of the lake and river, and Yellow, which is 2.5 miles around the perimeter. Lake Mohegan manages to make you feel like you're in a much more remote location, and the views and foliage are gorgeous. 
  • Lake Mohegan, 960 Morehouse Hwy, Fairfield CT, 06825
  • Shelton Lakes Recreational Path — The "Rec path" is a popular multi-use path located along the Shelton Lakes Greenway. The path passes along all three of Shelton's lakes as well as dams, gatehouses, streams and meadows. The path itself is 9-12 feet wide with a crushed stone surface, making it easy for walkers as well as strollers and wheelchairs. This lovely trail is flat and winds through the Shelton Lakes Greenway for nearly 5 miles. 
  • Shelton Lakes Recreation Path, 135 Shelton Ave, Shelton CT, 06484
  • New Canaan Nature Center — If you're looking for an easy, fun, and educational hike, this is the one! Located on 40 acres, you'll find wet and dry meadows, ponds, woodlands, thickets, a marsh, and an orchard. You can experience all kinds of ecosystems while walking across the two miles of trails. The trails include marsh boardwalks and two observation towers that overlook the wetlands and cattail marsh. 
  • New Canaan Nature Center, 144 Oenoke Ridge, New Canaan CT, 06830, 203-966-9577
  • Audubon Greenwich — Here you'll find 7 miles of trails across 285 acres of woodland, wetland and meadow habitat. The trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. The views are breathtaking and the environment is very diverse, from open fields to forests and shrub swamps, vernal pools, wildflower meadows and an old apple orchard. On the Lake Loop Trail, you'll find a boardwalk and two bird blinds which are camouflaged shelters that allow you the chance to observe wildlife without scaring anything away. In addition to the birds, you might spy a river otter, flying squirrels, owls, wild turkeys and bats. 
  • Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich CT 06831, 203-869-5272
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Guilford Police will be at the Senior Center for an update on the latest scams

During lunch at noon on Friday, March 6th, Sargent Martina Jakober, Guilford Police Department will be at the Guilford Senior Center to provide an update on some of the latest scams being targeted toward seniors. Sign up for lunch that day to meet one of our local officers and hear important information they have for you & learn how to protect yourself from people who go to great lengths to take advantage of innocent seniors. There will be an opportunity to ask questions.

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Madison Seniors Are You Aging Masterfully?

Madison Senior Center and the CT Healthy Living Collective are pleased to announce an innovative ten-week health and wellness program to residents age 60 and over. The Aging Mastery Program® (AMP) was developed by the National Council on Aging and has been successful at helping older adults build their own playbook for aging well. This is a wonderful opportunity for you to participate in, and reap the benefits of, this cutting-edge program. AMP is a free, fun, innovative, and person-centered education program that empowers participants to embrace their gift of longevity by spending more time each day doing things that are good for themselves and for others. The program encourages mastery—developing sustainable behaviors across many dimensions that lead to improved health, stronger economic security, enhanced well-being, and increased societal participation. The CT Healthy Living Collective is a network of partners dedicated to delivering programs and services that promote healthier people, better care, smarter spending, and health equity. If you are interested in learning more about the program, call Ellie Gillespie or Austin Hall at (203) 245-5627 If this program piques your interest stop by or call to learn more. We are currently recruiting 20-25 adults to participate in the ten-week educational program. Please register for this event. We are hosting an informational meeting on Friday, March 20th at 10:30am FREE

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Check-out the Barnum Festival

"20/20 A Vision For the Future"

2020 FOCUS

The 72nd annual Barnum Festival continues the tradition of uniting the community. Just as P.T. Barnum inspired future generations, our 2020 Ringmaster- Frank T. Gennarini- is passionately committed to this year’s theme: 20/20- A Vision For the Future.  For twenty-five years, Frank has enthusiastically supported the Barnum Festival, volunteering in every aspect of the festivities.  He is looking forward to building on the success of past festivals, and inspiring Bridgeport and surrounding communities to come together and celebrate the life and legacy of P.T. Barnum through festival favorites, and new and exciting events. If you believe in magic stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come!

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This fish stew will warm you with flavors of summer

 
Bangor Daily News

“Maybe you have a recipe like this,” wrote Bobbie Lehigh from Eastport, “but when I made it earlier this week, I thought: I should send this to Sandy.”

Well, I didn’t have a recipe like the “Fish Stew from Germany” Bobbie found in a booklet fifteen years ago entitled “The World’s Best Fish and Seafood.” Plus she sent along all kinds of advice on how to prepare it.

The recipe recommends ocean perch. “But I’ve used haddock, cod, etc.,” Bobbie wrote. It also specifies frozen fish, but Bobbie starts with thawed fish and says “it can be made with fish scraps so it can be inexpensive,” which is helpful.

Bobbie cuts back the amount of salt: “Recipe says 1 tablespoon, but that is too much, try 1 teaspoon for starters.” She also substitutes evaporated milk for 1 cup of the 5 cups of milk called for, a great Maine practice which makes for a creamier fish chowder or stew.

If you make this stew over the summer, you’ll want to use fresh dill. But this time of year Bobbie uses dried dill and I did, too. I love the horseradish and dill pickle in the stew, something a little different from my usual with fish dishes. I added in a little more of each, so be sure to sample the stew and adjust the flavors to suit your taste. Off hand, I’d say that if you don’t like onions, don’t bother to make this. The recipe calls for quite a few. It is an important part of the dish.

The stew goes together quickly — under 45 minutes — and tastes lovely right away. Yet Bobbie let this stew rest, as she said, “to mellow out.” I did the same and concluded that it is definitely better the next day.

The whole time I ate my mug full, I thought about how it reminded me of my favorite tuna salad with its onions, celery, dill and pickles. Only that’s more for summer on the front porch, and this stew is perfect for these chilly days sitting in the kitchen next to my wood burning cookstove. I’m so glad Bobbie wrote to me.

German Fish Stew

6-8 servings

2 tablespoons butter

4 medium onions, sliced

 

1 rib of celery, chopped

2 pounds white fish (cod, haddock, etc.), cut into chunks

5 cups milk (part evaporated, optional)

½ cup sour cream

2 tablespoons chopped dill pickle

1 tablespoon grated prepared horseradish

Dried or fresh dill, chopped

Dried or fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1. Put the butter, onions, celery and fish into a large heavy pan, and add the milk.

2. Over a medium high temperature, bring just to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

3. Add the sour cream, dill pickle, horseradish, dill, parsley and salt, and stir to combine well.

4. Reheat briefly and serve, or let season overnight and reheat gently the next day.

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No more dueling in DC

History for February 20 - On-This-Day.com. 1673 - The first recorded wine auction took place in London. 1792 - U.S. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act that created the U.S. Post Office. ... 1839 - The U.S. Congress prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia.

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Against The Wind

I had the pleasure of going to Bob Seger's show last fall at Madision Square Garden with some long-time friends. He played for 21/2 hours and it seemd like everybody there new the lyrics of every song. I like songs that the words have a meaning. here are the lyrics to one of my favorites.
It seems like yesterday, but it was a long time ago
She was lovely, she was the queen of my nights
There in the darkness with the radio, playin' low
The secrets that we shared, the mountains that we moved
Caught like a wildfire out of control
There was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove
And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it would never end
I remember how she held me oh, so tight
Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then
Against the wind
We were running against the wind
We were young and strong
But just running against the wind
And the years rolled slowly past, I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
I found myself further and further from my home
I guess I lost my way, there were oh, so many roads
I was livin' to run and runnin' to live
Never worrying about paying or how much I owed
Movin' eight miles a minute for months at a time
Breakin' all of the rules I could bend
I began to find myself searchin'
Searchin' for shelter again and again
Against the wind
We were running against the wind
I found myself seekin'
Shelter against the wind
All those drifter's days are passed me now
I've got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out
Against the wind
We were running against the wind
Well I'm older now and still
Running against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind
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Where You Store Your Toothbrush makes a difference

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Your knee-jerk reaction to protect your toothbrush from germs might be to store it inside a medicine cabinet or travel container, away from other surfaces and, of course, your toilet. But this tactic is actually a really bad move.

"Using a toothbrush cover doesn't protect a toothbrush from bacterial growth, but actually creates an environment where bacteria are better suited to grow by keeping the bristles moist and not allowing the head of the toothbrush to dry out between uses," says Laura Aber, the study's graduate student researcher.

The American Dental Association recommends that you store toothbrushes so they can air-dry in upright position, and so they don't touch each other.

But the real key to minimizing the spread of germs starts with your toilet. Closing the lid before flushing is essential — lest you want poop particles to land on your toothbrush (and everywhere else within six feet of the bowl).

As for your college kid who can't control what her dorm-mates do in the bathroom? The study's researchers suggest following the ADA's guidelines as closely as possible: Rinsing the brush thoroughly after use, replacing it after three or four months, and storing it so it can air-dry (a cup in a discreet corner of her room is better than a travel case).

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A Directory of Helpful Information for Seniors, Family Members and Professionals

Comprehensive up-to-date information on senior housing, home care, health and professional services in Fairfield and New Haven Counties.