CT Senior Help Center Blog

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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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Meriden Library Passport Service

Passport on Wheels

Need to renew or get a new passport? Stop into the Meriden Public Library and bypass that line at the Post Office. The Post Office holds a passport application service at the library each month from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and will hold the next one on Saturday, January 11th.

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For more information and forms, visit http://travel.state.gov.

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Concert: Princeton University Footnotes

The Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum in collaboration with the Princeton Alumni Association of Fairfield County will feature an a cappella concert by the Princeton University Footnotes. This past year, the Footnotes have performed internationally from London to Frankfurt, and nationally from New York to Nashville, including opening for Tim McGraw at the Beacon Theater in NYC June of 2019. The Footnotes’ original song from this album, “All I Ask for Is You,” was chosen to be on Varsity Vocals’ Best of Collegiate A Cappella 2020 Album.

Admission: $15 Members – $20 non-members
Click here to purchase tickets

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Seeking Alzheimer’s Answers

If there is a bogeyman of aging, it might be Alzheimer’s disease because it is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that causes patients to lose both short-term and, eventually, long-term memories. For many people, the fear of developing Alzheimer’s disease keeps them up at night and shadows their progression to advanced age. Fear also may keep them from seeking medical advice, which is essential to having the best care if Alzheimer’s disease is present. 

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

A common misperception is that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the same. Dementia is an umbrella term under which a number of memory loss conditions sit, including Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to Courtney Martin, director of memory care and life enrichment at Masonic Homes Kentucky, 60 percent of dementia cases are Alzheimer’s disease. But not all forms of Alzheimer’s disease are the same; there are actually three subtypes, according to recent research, that impact both the progression and severity of the disease. While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown, researchers think that genetics, environment, and lifestyle may all play a role.

While Alzheimer’s disease is a complicated illness, what happens in the brain can be fairly easy to understand: nerve cells (neurons) begin to die as a result of plaques and tangles. Plaques are remnants of proteins (beta-amyloids) that begin to build up between neurons. You might imagine clumps of goo between neurons that prevent them from sending signals between each other. 

Tangles happen inside the neurons themselves. Within a neuron, there are membranes that carry nutrients and information to different parts of the cell. A tangle is when the membrane either falls apart or twists abnormally, making it impossible for the nutrients and information to get where they need to go. Think of these membranes like a railroad track that is long and straight; a tangle would be if someone took a segment of train ties away, meaning the train wasn’t able to continue moving forward but had to stop. 

Symptoms

While symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can vary from person-to-person, Martin says patients may begin to have problems with word retrieval, judgment and decision-making, and spatial awareness. As the disease progresses, patients may experience a loss of details in older memories, the development of anxiety or depression, and an inability to retain new memories. 

The Importance of Seeing the Doctor

Martin says most people do not see a doctor soon enough, which can be difficult for the patient, the family, and the physician. “People are reluctant to go to the doctor and tell the full scope of what they’re experiencing,” she says, “but doctors can only work with the information they are given. They need comprehensive information.”

Memory loss doesn’t automatically mean a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Martin says there are many possible causes of memory issues including vitamin deficiency, hormone levels, sleep apnea, medication side effects, and even infections. For example, urinary tract infections (UTIs) are notorious for causing memory loss and confusion in older people. 

Treatments 

Martin says there are five popular medications right now for the management of Alzheimer’s disease: Razadyne, Aricept, Exelon, Namenda, and Namzaric. Some of these are for early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, while others are for later stages of the illness. 

There are also non-pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer’s, such as validation therapy, physical exercise, and sensory stimulation, and Martin says it is best when both forms of treatment are used together.

Validation therapy is a form of communication in which caregivers do not try to bring the Alzheimer’s patient to reality. Caregivers accept the reality that the patient is experiencing. Sensory stimulation offers patients a range of auditory, visual, gustatory, and olfactory experiences to help them reconnect with the world and cope. For example, if an Alzheimer’s patient touches sand or shells, this may reconnect him/her with positive feelings associated with past beach or vacation memories. 

Auditory experiences are generally a big part of therapy for Alzheimer’s patients because “music is the last memory to go,” Martin says. When Alzheimer’s patients hear music from their childhood or early adult years, it can help them make connections to memories that have been difficult to find. 

Help for Caregivers

Alzheimer’s disease is a terrifying illness because it means a lack of control over the brain, which causes tremendous stress to patients. Unfortunately, Martin says patients’ families can often make the stress worse for their loved ones by asking “Do you remember this person?” or “Do you know who I am?” While it is understandable that families want their loved ones to remember, being questioned and unable to recall faces and names is profoundly upsetting to Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Martin encourages families to have “more experiences, fewer conversations” with their loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease. This can mean taking a walk, working a puzzle together, listening to music, or eating dessert together. 

P.S. A fun way to help someone with Alzheimer’s stimulate memories. 

BY CARRIE VITTITOE

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Spaghetti alla Putanesca: To Spice up Winter Dining

 

The scent of evil perpetually attracts. In the 1890s, for example, Oscar Wilde noted, “As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.”

Spaghetti alla Putanesca, a deliciously savory dish of alleged ill repute, reportedly emerged from the war-ravaged brothels of Naples in the late 1940s. The name means spaghetti in the style of, well, ladies of negotiable virtue. The dish can be prepared quickly, suitable perhaps between clients. It needs only non-refrigerated ingredients as might have been found in the pantry of your typical disorderly Neapolitan brothel kitchen – spaghetti, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, capers, dry hot pepper. The illicit-sounding dish became popular by the 1950s. Its catchy title inevitably brought out nudge-nudge, wink-wink attempts at wit: “fast,” “easy,” “hot.”

Unfortunately, food historians have focused on a flamboyant cook and nightclub host on the nearby island of Ischia, not Naples working girls, as the likely creator. Yet, the lingering name suited the Italian sense of obscene culinary humor. Italy, after all, boasts the drink “Strega” (witch), “Fra Diavalo” (devil monk) sauce, “Strozzapreti” (priest stranglers) pasta, and a white-frosted, cherrytopped Sicilian cookie called “Minne di Sant’Agatha” (I’ll let you translate), which celebrates the severed body parts of a 3rd century virgin martyr. Worse yet, Italians designated the scholarly deacon St. Lawrence, another early Roman martyr, patron saint of chefs— not because he cooked but because he himself was cooked to death on a gridiron.

To make Spaghetti alla Putanesca (you remember Spaghetti alla Putanesca, don’t you?) the trick— a risky word here—is having the sauce ready before boiling the pasta. Cheese is not traditionally used. Dry white wines are recommended for pairing because of the anchovies and hot peppers.


Spaghetti alla Putanesca

The recipe serves six as a starter course, four as a meal.

4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-ounce) can anchovy fillets (save oil), coarsely chopped
24 Greek Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
6 tablespoons combined oil from anchovies plus olive oil as needed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Salt, if needed
3/4 pound (12 ounces) spaghetti

Boil large pot of water for the pasta, and prepare the ingredients.

In large frying pan gently fry garlic in the oil 10 seconds, stirring. Add anchovies and hot pepper. Fry 1/2 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, and capers. Raise heat and boil, stirring, 2 minutes. Taste, and add salt if needed. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley.

Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water. Add pasta, stirring immediately so it doesn’t stick. As pasta softens, bite a piece to test. When just tender, drain in colander. In large serving bowl, toss pasta with 3/4 of the sauce. Spoon remainder on top.

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The Last Days of Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh’s final time in Auvers-sur-Oise

By ed boitano

Ask most people to name a famous painter, and they’d probably say Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Today his paintings command staggering purchase prices, with his Portrait of Dr. Gachet, painted the last year of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise, selling for $152 million in today’s currency.

During his 10 short years as a painter, he sold only one painting and it was to his young art dealer brother, Theo van Gogh, who supported Vincent financially throughout most of his life. His years have been well-documented in films, from Vincente Minnelli’s “Lust for Life” and Alain Resnais’ short documentary “Van Gogh” to Robert Altman’s “Vincent & Theo,” Maurice Pialat’s “Van Gogh” and recently avant-garde painter Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate.”

Van Gogh is also well-represented in print. For an immediate read, visit “Vincent van Gogh: The Letters,” where all his written correspondence is presented in a web edition.

Back story

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was born in the southern Netherlands into an upper-middle-class Dutch family; his father a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church.

In Dutch, his surname is pronounced “vun Khokh.” Prior to be being a painter, van Gogh was a junior clerk, teacher, bookseller, art student and preacher. His commission as a lay preacher in the Borinage mining region of Belgium was spent helping coal miners in their horrific existence; living among them, sleeping on the floor and sharing their poverty. His dedication earned him the nickname, The Christ of the Coal Mine.

With his sloppy attire and unorthodox manner of “bringing God down to the miners,” the ministry’s elders found his style not in the same vein as their dignified, buttoned-up theology, and did not renew his contract.

At age 30, van Gogh decided to dedicate his life completely to art. He moved to the town of Arles in the south of France—also a favorite of the Impressionists because of the bright Mediterranean sunshine which created vivid colors and blue skies. He changed his style to impressionistic-influenced bursts of color and rough brush strokes done in thick impasto. Every act of his life was of a deeply felt sense of fervency, which transitioned into his art, where every move of his paintbrush was done with profound intensity. Regardless of the subject matter, all his work is about himself.

For many, Vincent is best known for his mental instability, suffering from psychotic episodes and delusions, which resulted in self-imposed tenures in an asylum under the care of Dr. Gachet, also a painter. A sensationalistic incident where he slashed off his left earlobe with a razor, purportedly after an argument with post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin added to his reputation as “the unkempt mad painter.”

Vincent van Gogh Trail

in Auvers-sur-Oise

I finally caught up with van Gogh in the charming French village of Auvers-sur-Oise, just 16.9 miles by train and a world away from the riveting pulse of Paris. This is where Van Gogh spent the final two months of his life. This period was his most intense and prolific, when he created over 80 almost violent paintings and 64 sketches.

Many are considered masterpieces, such as “Crows over Wheatfield,” “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” and “Church at Auvers.” I had journeyed there to learn more about van Gogh and walk the famous self-guided Vincent van Gogh Trail. You simply follow the path where many of his works were painted and then stop at posted landmarks, each of which features a reproduction of one of his paintings overlooking the exact landscape where he painted it. It’s mesmerizing. You actually see what he saw when painting one of his many landscapes or village streets.

I was surprised not one of Van Gogh’s original paintings was on display in Auvers-sur-Oise, but you can clearly feel his spiritual presence. You’ll see the modest village houses, the town hall and the church Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, pretty much unchanged when Van Gogh painted them. Besides negotiating the Vincent van Gogh Trail, you can stroll farther through town and visit Dr. Gachet’s house, which is now a museum. The tour showcases the rooms where Dr. Gachet treated van Gogh with homeopathic remedies and where they painted together in his garden.

Final two days

On the evening of July 27, 1890, van Gogh staggered back to his tiny room at the Auberge Ravoux. Alarmed by the artist’s groans, the innkeeper looked in on van Gogh and found him doubled over in pain from a gunshot wound to his stomach. The innkeeper summoned Dr. Gachet.

After examining the patient, it was clear it was not possible to remove the bullet. Gachet placed a pipe in the artist’s mouth and sat at his side and painted a canvas of him, at van Gogh’s request. Theo heard the news the next day and rushed to Auvers to be by his brother’s side. He purportedly whispered to Theo he shot himself in the chest and missed, resulting in the bullet entering his stomach. He apparently passed out, and then was revived when the weather cooled down. His next step was to shoot himself again in a more fatal part of his body, but he could not find the gun.

The disappearance of the murder weapon resulted in a series of conspiracy theories. There were long debates whether he committed suicide or was shot by an unnamed person. Never popular wherever he lived, he was often considered by villagers to be a dangerous madman dressed in rags. Children would mock van Gogh, throwing rocks and dirt clods at him while he painted. Some researchers argue van Gogh was accidentally shot by two young boys playing with a gun nearby.

The mystery finally came to rest when a corroded revolver was discovered, buried in a wheat field, by a farmer in 1965. Lauded as the most famous weapon in art history, an unnamed buyer bought the 7 mm caliber Lefaucheux revolver for about $212,000. The gun’s trigger is pulled back, frozen in place, cementing the moment where it would have dropped from van Gogh’s grasp. Its caliber matches the bullet retrieved from van Gogh’s body, scientific studies show the gun had been in the ground since the 1890s, and it is a lower-power gun, which could potentially explain the artist’s prolonged death.

The journey back in time continued with the much-anticipated tour of van Gogh’s modest attic room in Auberge Ravoux where he died. Often called The House of van Gogh, the room remained vacant since his death, not because it was where van Gogh took his last breath but due to the French superstition of never renting a room where someone died. There was a sense of hushed reverence as our small group followed our guide up the sacred stairs. As we quietly assembled in the little room, I felt I already knew this Spartan-like dwelling from Vincent’s paintings, which along with his quarters in Arles, is one of the most famous rooms in art history. But to see it, smell it and feel it in person moved me to the depths of my soul. Our guide gave a heartfelt account of Vincent’s last two days. It was so heartfelt, she actually wept.

A final walk up the little hill leads to the cemetery where the unassuming graves of Vincent and Theo rest, buried side by side.

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Monroe police warn of scams

MONROE — Police are warning town residents to be vigilant of scams and not reveal too much personal information to those they don’t know.

According to an alert on the Monroe Police Department Facebook page, in recent months, police have seen a huge uptick in a variety of scams.

“Most start with an unsolicited phone call where the caller uses pressure tactics to try to convince you that you or a loved one will be arrested if you don’t comply,” the alert reads. “If you get a call like this, hang up. Reputable companies will not threaten to arrest you if you don't pay them immediately.”

Police said people shouldn’t give away personal information over the phone (such as name, date of birth, social security number, bank account numbers, or the like), nor should they wire-transfer money to someone they don’t know.

 They also advise against providing strangers with gift card codes over the phone or sending cash in the mail.

Police said the elderly are most often the victims of these scams.

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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.