There are actually quite a few senior advocacy
organizations out there promoting themselves as
conservative alternatives to AARP. While AARP, with a
membership of almost 38 million, is by far the biggest
and most powerful advocacy group for people age 50 and
older, there are millions of older Americans that don’t
like or agree with their stance on various issues. Many
believe AARP leans too far to the left despite its
stated nonpartisan nature.
Can you recommend any advocacy organizations for seniors
other than AARP? I cut up my AARP card a few years back
when they supported Obamacare, and am now looking for
another organization that better represents me.
seniors that are anti-AARP, there are numerous
conservative leaning groups that you can join that may
better represent your views, and most of them offer
discount benefits too. Here are several to look into.
Seniors Coalition: Established in 1990, this nonprofit
organization has around four million supporters. Their
key issues are to protect Social Security benefits, save
Medicare, repeal Obamacare, eliminate the death tax and
reform the Social Security COLA system. Members also get
access to deals on travel, shopping, car insurance and a
discount healthcare program. Annual membership fees to
join run $10 for one person per, or $13.50 per couple.
To learn more visit Senior.org, or call 202-261-3594.
Plus Association: Established in 1992, this nonprofit
group that claims over 7.2 million supporters, believes
in smaller government and lower taxes. Their top
priorities include the fight to end the inheritance tax,
and taking steps to help save social security for future
generations. There’s no membership fee to join 60 Plus,
but they do take donations for those who want to support
their effort. They also don’t offer discounts to their
members. 60plus.org, 703-807-2070.
American Seniors Association: Open to all ages, this
for-profit group stands on what they call the five
foundations of security for America’s seniors. These
include rebuilding the national values respecting
seniors, Social Security and Medicare reform, tax code
reform, and control of government overspending. Fees to
join run $15 per year, and members receive access to a
variety of discounts on travel, health care, office
supplies and more. AmericanSeniors.org, 800-951-0017.
Association of Mature American Citizens: With more than
one million members, this for-profit organization was
started in 2007 for people age 50 and older. Their
mission is to help seniors fight high taxes, reduce
excessive government involvement in our day-to-day
lives, and preserve American values. They also offer
member discounts on auto insurance, travel, vision,
dental, prescription drugs, and much more. Membership
fees run $16 per year, or less if you join for multiple
years. Amac.us, 888-262-2006.
National Association of Conservative Seniors: Founded in
2012, this for-profit organization emphasizes two key
missions. One is to provide members, age 60 and older,
with services and benefits that include discounts on
travel, quality of life opportunities, better insurance
and financial programs at competitive prices, and
savings on household goods, food, and fun. And the
second is to uphold conservative values in the United
Membership is free the first year, but costs $12 the
second year. Or, for $5 per month you can become a “Gold
Patriot” member and receive their “Click to Call”
feature, which gives members direct connection to
government officials. Naocs.us, 800-570-7769.
Ergonomic tools that can ease gardening pains
July 15, 2014
Q: What are the cheapest cell phone options available
today to seniors living on a shoestring budget? I only
need it for occasional calls.
For financially challenged seniors who only want a cell
phone for emergency purposes or occasional calls, there
are a number of inexpensive no contract plans you can
get. Or, depending on your income level, there are also
free cell phones and monthly airtime minutes you may
qualify for. Here’s where to find some of the cheapest
way infrequent cell phone users can save money is with a
prepaid cell phone - also known as pay-as-you-go phones.
With a prepaid phone there’s no contract, no fixed
monthly bills, no credit checks and no hidden costs that
come with traditional cell phone plans. With this type
of service, you buy a special prepaid phone then
pre-purchase a certain amount of minutes (for talk or
text) that must be used within a specified period of
While most major carriers like AT&T and Verizon offer
inexpensive prepaid plans, as do independents like
Net10, Cricket and Virgin Mobile, some of the best deals
are offered by TracFone (tracfone.com, 800-867-7183) and
T-Mobile (t-mobile.com, 800-866-2453).
TracFone has phones that start as low as $10 and call
plans that cost under $7 per month. And T-Mobile has a
super-cheap 30-minute plan for $10, and minutes don’t
expire for 90 days. That averages out to $3.33 per
month. If you need more talk time, they also offer an
annual plan where $100 gets you 1,000 minutes that are
good for a full year. T-Mobile does, however, charge a
one-time activation of $35.
it you would rather have a no-contract senior-friendly
phone with big buttons and simplified features, the Doro
PhoneEasy 618 sold through Consumer Cellular (consumercellular.com,
888-345-5509) is probably your cheapest option. It costs
$60 for the phone, with calling plans that start at $10
Free cell phones
If your income is low enough, you also need to check
into the Lifeline Assistance Program. This is a
government-sponsored program that subsidizes wireless
(and landline) companies who in turn provide free
cellphones and around 250 minutes of free monthly
airtime and texts to low-income Americans. (Some
programs in some states provide more minutes, some less,
and some charge a small monthly fee.)
There are currently around 15 million Americans who have
a free cell phone through the Lifeline program, but
millions more are eligible.
free phones and minutes are provided by a number of
national prepaid wireless companies like Safelink and
Assurance Wireless, along with a host of other regional
carriers throughout the country.
states have more than one wireless company that provides
the free phones and minutes. If you are eligible, the
free cell phone you’ll receive is a basic phone that
also offers text messaging, voice mail, call waiting and
qualify, you’ll need to show that you’re receiving
certain types of government benefits, such as Medicaid,
Food Stamps, SSI, home energy assistance or public
housing assistance. Or, that your household income is at
or below 135 or 150 percent of the Federal Poverty
Guidelines - it varies by state. The 135 percent poverty
level is currently $15,754 for singles and $21,235 for
couples. The 150 percent level is $17,505/singles,
find out if you’re eligible, or to locate the wireless
companies that provide Lifeline government cell phones
in your state, visit lifelinesupport.org. You can also
learn more at freegovernmentcellphones.net.
Ergonomic tools that can ease gardening pains
July 8, 2014
Can you recommend some good ergonomic gardening gear for
seniors? My 72-year-old mother loves to work in the
garden, but has been plagued by various gardening
injuries this year
There’s no doubt that gardening can be tough on an aging
body. Garden work often requires a lot of repetitive
stooping, squatting, kneeling, gripping and lifting,
which can lead to back and knee pain, carpal tunnel
syndrome and various other injuries.
help make your mom’s gardening chores a little easer is
a slew of new and improved gardening gear that’s
lightweight, comfortable to use, and ergonomically
designed to help protect her body from the physical
strains of gardening. Here are several that can help.
Gloves: There are a number of specially designed gloves
that can improve your mom’s grip and protect her hands
while she works. Two of the best are the “Atlas Nitrile
Touch Garden Gloves” (available at amazon.com for under
$6), which are coated with a flexible synthetic rubber.
And the “ReliefGrip Gardening” gloves (bionicgloves.com,
$35), that have extra padding in the palm and finger
joints that can improve grip, and cause fewer calluses
Digging tools: There are ergonomic tools that can help
protect your mom’s wrists by reducing the bending and
twisting wrist movement that often comes with digging
good options include Radius Garden tools (radiusgarden.com),
which make a variety of curved-handle hand tools
(scooper, weeder, transplanter, cultivator and trowel)
and shovels that run between $10 and $50. And Corona
tools (coronatoolsusa.com), which makes the ComfortGEL
and eGrip hand garden tools.
Another excellent product is the “Cobrahead Weeder and
Cultivator” (cobrahead.com), an all-purpose digging and
weeding tool that’s available in a short handle version
for close up work for $25; and a long handle for
standing work for $60.
and back aids: Kneepads and garden seats can also
protect your mom’s knees and save her back when working
close to the ground. Some popular products sold today
through the Gardener’s Supply Company (gardeners.com) -
a leading developer and manufacturer of innovative
garden equipment - are the “GardenEase Kneeler” ($70),
which is a kneeling pad with support handles; the
“Garden Kneeler” ($35) that’s a kneepad/garden bench
combo; and the “Deluxe Tractor Scoot with Bucket
Basket,” which is a height-adjustable, swivel garden
seat on wheels ($90).
Pruning tools: Fiskars (fiskars.com) makes some of the
finest ergonomic pruning tools that have also earned the
Arthritis Foundation’s Ease of Use Commendation, because
of their patented PowerGear mechanisms that increases
leverage to make cutting three times easier than
traditional pruners. The Fiskars PowerGear Hand Pruners,
Loppers and Hedge Shears all run between $25 and $48.
Bahco and Corona also make a nice line of ergonomic
pruning tools and handsaws that you can see at
bahcostore.com or coronatoolsusa.com.
Watering: To help make your mom’s watering chores a
little easier, there are lightweight garden hoses;
soaker or drip hoses that can be snaked throughout the
garden; and hose chests that can automatically rewind
good companies that make these products include Water
Right Inc. (waterrightinc.com), which makes a variety of
super lightweight garden and coil hoses. The DIG Corp. (digcorp.com),
which makes convenient drip irrigation kits and micro
sprinkler kits. And Suncast (suncast.com), the leading
maker of self-winding hose reels, and hose carts.
Container gardening: Raised garden beds, trellises, and
container gardening is also an easier way to grow plants
and flowers because it brings the garden to you,
eliminating most stooping, squatting and kneeling. The
Gardener’s Supply Company (gardeners.com) offers a wide
range of raised beds and garden containers at prices
ranging anywhere between $10 up to $350.
How to protect your medicare card from identity theft
July 2, 2014
Q: I just turned 65 and received my Medicare card. I see
that the ID number on my card is the same as my Social
Security number, and on the back of the card it tells me
I need to carry it with me at all times. What can I do
to protect myself from identify theft if my purse and
Medicare card get stolen?
Many people new to Medicare are surprised to learn that
the ID number on their Medicare card is identical to
their Social Security number. After all, we’re
constantly warned not to carry our SSN around with us,
because if it gets lost or stolen, the result could be
the Medicare ID is more than an identifier. It’s proof
of insurance. Beneficiaries need to show their Medicare
card at the doctor’s office and the hospital in order to
have Medicare pay for treatment.
the years, many consumer advocates, have called for a
new form of Medicare identification. The Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services, which administers
Medicare, also acknowledges the problem, but so far
nothing has been done.
of the main reasons is because it would cost an
estimated $255 to $317 million to fix it. And that’s
just the direct cost to the federal government. It
doesn’t include the expense for physicians and other
healthcare providers to adjust their systems, or the
cost to the states.
Other government health systems like the Department of
Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have already
begun using ID numbers that are different from SSNs, but
no one knows when Medicare will follow suit.
the meantime, here are some tips offered by various
consumer advocate groups that can help keep your
Medicare card safe and out of the hands of fraudsters.
Protect your card
For starters, AARP suggests that you simply don’t carry
your Medicare card at all, because it’s not necessary.
Most healthcare providers already have their patients in
their electronic systems and know how to bill you.
if you really don’t feel comfortable not having it with
you, then the Privacy Rights Clearing House, a national
consumer resource on identity theft recommends that you
make a photocopy of your card and cut it down to wallet
size. Then use scissors to cut out the last four digits
of your SSN, or take a black marker and cross them out,
and carry that instead.
will, however, need your actual Medicare card with you
the first time you visit a new health care provider, who
will likely want to make a photocopy of it for their
you’re worried that you’ll need your card in an
emergency situation in order to get care, you should
know that emergency personnel cannot refuse you care
until you show an insurance card. Although you’ll need
to come up with billing information before leaving a
hospital, that doesn’t mean you won’t receive care.
Lost or stolen cards
If your Medicare card does happen to get lost or stolen,
you can replace it by calling Social Security at
800-772-1213. You can also apply for a new card online
at ssa.gov/medicarecard or go to your local Social
your Medicare card has been lost or stolen, you will
need to watch out for Medicare fraud. You can do this by
checking your quarterly Medicare summary notices for
services or supplies you did not receive. If you spot
anything suspicious or wrong, call the Inspector
General’s fraud hotline at 800-447-8477.
If you need help identifying Medicare fraud, contact
your state Senior Medicare Patrol program. See
smpresource.org or call 877-808-2468 for contact
When to see a geriatrician
June 24, 2014
Q: What kinds of health problems do
geriatricians treat? My mother, who’s 80, takes several
different medications for various health problems, but
she hasn’t been feeling herself lately. I’m wondering if
she would benefit by seeing a geriatrician in place of
her regular family doctor.
your mom is dealing with a variety of health problems
and is taking multiple medications, a visit to a
geriatrician may be just the antidote to help get her
back on track. Here’s a breakdown of the different types
of health conditions geriatricians treat and some tips
to help you locate one in your area.
starters, it’s important to know that geriatricians are
family practice or internal medicine physicians that
have had additional specialized training to manage the
unique and, oftentimes, multiple health concerns of
older adults. Just as a pediatrician specializes in
caring for children, a geriatrician is trained to
provide care for seniors, usually over age 65.
most doctors, and even general practitioners, are
trained to focus on a person’s particular illness or
disease, geriatricians are trained to look at all
aspects that can affect elderly patients - not just the
physical symptoms. They also often work with a team of
other health care professionals like geriatric-trained
nurses, rehabilitation therapists, nutritionists, social
workers and psychiatrists to provide care. And, they
will coordinate treatments among a patient’s
Patients who can benefit from seeing a geriatrician are
elderly seniors with multiple health and age-related
problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke,
confusion and memory problems, Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, hypertension, depression,
respiratory problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic
pain, mobility issues, incontinence, vision and hearing
impairment, and trouble with balance and falls.
Geriatricians are also particularly adept at tackling
medication problems. Because many seniors, like your
mom, take multiple medications at the same time for
various health conditions, and because aging bodies
often absorb and metabolize drugs differently than
younger adults, unique side effects and drug
interactions are not uncommon. A geriatrician will
evaluate and monitor you mom’s medications to be sure
they are not affecting her in a harmful way.
Geriatricians can also help their patients and families
determine their long-term care needs, like how long they
can remain in their own homes safely without assistance,
and what type of services may be necessary when they do
need some extra help.
not all seniors need to see a geriatrician. Seniors who
have few health problems are just fine seeing their
primary care physician.
Find a geriatrician
Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of geriatricians in
the U.S., so depending on where you live, finding one
may be challenging. To locate one in your area, visit
the American Board of Family Medicine website at
theabfm.org where you can do a search online. Or use
Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Just go to
medicare.gov/physiciancompare and type in your zip code,
or city and state, then type in “Geriatric Medicine” in
the “What are you searching for?” box. You can also get
this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
in mind, though, that locating a geriatrician doesn’t
guarantee your mom will be accepted as a patient. Many
doctors already have a full patient roster and don’t
accept any new patients. You’ll need to call the
individual doctor’s office to find out.
Top rated new vehicles for seniors
June 18, 2014
Q: Can you recommend any credible resources that rate
the best vehicles for older drivers? My wife and I are
both in our seventies and are looking to purchase a new
automobile but could use some help choosing one that’s
age friendly. What can you tell us?
While there are a number of websites that rate new
vehicles for older drivers, one of the most credible is
Edmunds.com, a top-rated online resource for automotive
2014, they developed a list of “top 10 vehicles for
seniors” based on user-friendly features that help
compensate for many of the physical changes - like
diminished vision, arthritis, and range of motion loss -
that can come with aging.
before we get to the list, here is a rundown of
different features that are available on many new
vehicles today and how they can help with various
age-related physical problems. So depending on what ails
you or your wife, here’s what to look for.
Knee, hip or leg problems: For comfort, a better fit,
and easier entry and exit, look for vehicles that have
six-way adjustable power seats that move the seat
forward and backward, up and down, and the seat-back
forward and backward. Also look for low door thresholds
and seat heights that don’t require too much bending or
climbing to get into. Leather or faux leather seats are
also easier to slide in and out of than cloth seats.
Limited upper body range of motion: If you have
difficulty looking over your shoulder to back up or
merge into traffic, look for vehicles with a large rear
window for better visibility, wide-angle mirrors which
can minimize blind spots, back-up cameras, active
parallel park assistance, and blind-spot warning systems
that alert you to objects in the way. Also, for comfort
and fit, consider vehicles that have a tilt and
telescoping steering wheel, adjustable seatbelts, and
heated seats with lumbar support.
Arthritic hands: To help with difficult and painful
gripping and turning problems, features that can help
include a keyless entry and a push-button ignition, a
thicker steering wheel, power mirrors and seats, and
larger dashboard controls. And in SUVs and crossovers,
an automatic tailgate closer can be a real bonus.
Diminished vision: Look for vehicles with larger
instrument panels and dashboard controls with
contrasting text that’s easier to see. And those with
sensitivity to glare will benefit from extendable sun
visors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and glare reducing
Short or overweight: Look for six-way adjustable seats,
adjustable foot pedals and a tilt-and-telescoping
Here is Edmunds list of top 10 vehicles for 2014 listed
in alphabetical order. Each offers features designed to
support drivers coping with the conditions discussed
above. Their picks include both sedans and SUVs, and
range from top-of-the-line luxury models to those with
more affordable price tags.
Acura RDX SUV, Audi A8 Sedan, Ford Taurus Sedan, Honda
Accord Sedan, Hyundai Sonata Sedan, Lexus ES 350 Sedan,
Mazda CX-9 SUV, Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan, Toyota
Avalon Sedan and Volkswagen Passat.
To read more about the details of these choices visit
edmunds.com and type in “Top 10 vehicles for seniors for
2014” into their search bar.
Another excellent resource that can help you chose a
vehicle that meets your needs is the American Automobile
Association’s online tool called “Smart Features for
seniordriving.aaa.com/smartfeatures you can input the
areas you have problems with - like knee problems,
arthritic hands or a stiff upper body - and the tool
will identify the makes and models that have the
features that will best accommodate your needs. Although
this tool looks at model-year 2013 vehicles, in many
cases the features shown are carried over for 2014
make an online memorial for a departed loved one
June 10, 2014
Q: What can you tell me about online memorials? My
uncle recently passed away, and some of the family
thought it would be neat to create an online memorial to
pay tribute to him, and accommodate the many family and
friends who are scattered around the country who
couldn’t attend his funeral.
A: It’s a great idea! Online memorials have become
increasingly popular over the past decade, as millions
of people have created them for their departed loved
ones as a way to recognize and remember them.
online memorial is a website created for a deceased
person that provides a central location where their
family and friends can visit to share stories, fond
memories, photographs, comfort one another and grieve.
The memorial can remain online for life (or a specific
period of time) allowing people to visit and contribute
any time in the privacy of their own space.
Online memorials started popping up on the Internet in
the late 1990s, but were created primarily for people
who were well known. But now, these sites are for anyone
who wants to pay tribute to their departed family member
or friend, and ensure they will be remembered.
Content typically posted on an online memorial includes
a biography, pictures, stories from family and friends,
timelines of key events in their life, along with
favorite music and even videos.
Another common feature is the acceptance of thoughts or
candles offered by visitors to the site who want to send
their condolences and support to the grieving party.
online memorial can also direct visitors to the departed
person’s favorite charity or cause to make a donation,
as an alternative to sending funeral flowers.
How to make one
To make an online memorial, you can either create an
independent website, or use an established memorial
site, which is what most people choose to do. Memorial
websites are very easy to create and personalize, and
can be done in less than 30 minutes.
There are literally dozens of these types of sites on
the Internet today. To locate them, do an online search
for “Online Memorial Websites.” In the meantime, here
are a few good sites to check into.
biggest and most established site in the industry is
Legacy.com, which also publishes about 75 percent of the
obituaries in North America each year through its
newspaper affiliations. Creating an online memorial
through this site (see memorialwebsites.legacy.com) will
run you $49 for the first year, plus an annual $19
sponsorship fee to keep it visible.
other popular sites to check out are ForeverMissed.com,
which offers a free barebones option, along with a
premium plan that runs $35 per year or $75 for life; and
iLasting.com, which runs $49 per year or $99 for
you’re on a tight budget consider LifeStory.com, which
is completely free to use, but requires you to log in
through Facebook to get to it. And iMorial.com, which is
free if you allow ads to be posted on your uncle’s page,
or it costs $50 without ads.
if your uncle used Facebook, you can also turn his
profile into a memorial for free when you show proof of
death. Once his page is memorialized, his sensitive
information will be removed and his birthday
notifications will stop, but (depending on his privacy
settings) it still enables family and friends to post
memories and condolences. In addition, you can also
request a Look Back video, which is a short video
created by Facebook highlighting your uncle’s pictures
and most liked status messages.
Health insurance options available until Medicare
June 3, 2014
At age 63, I will be retiring in a few months and need
to find some health insurance coverage for my wife and
me until Medicare kicks in. Is Obamacare my only option?
A: There are actually several places early
(pre-Medicare) retirees can go to find health insurance
coverage – Obamacare isn’t the only game in town. Here
are your options depending on your income and health
If your yearly income falls below 400 percent of the
poverty level, the Obamacare insurance marketplace is
probably your best option for getting health coverage
because of the federal tax credits it offers, which will
reduce the amount you’ll have to pay for a policy.
To qualify for the tax credits, your household’s
modified adjusted gross income for 2013 must have been
under $45,960 for an individual, or $62,040 for a
If your income will drop below 400 percent of the
poverty level in 2014 or 2015 because of your
retirement, it may still make sense to buy coverage
through the Obamacare marketplace, even if you don’t
qualify for the tax credits based on last year’s income.
To help you see how much you can save, see the subsidy
calculator on the Kaiser Family Foundation website at
To shop for marketplace plans in your state, visit
www.Healthcare.gov or call the toll-free helpline at
Outside the marketplace
If you aren’t eligible for the government subsidy, or
you want additional policy options to what Obamacare
offers, you can also buy health coverage outside the
government marketplaces directly through insurance
companies, brokers or agents. This option is not
available if you live in Washington, D.C., or Vermont.
These policies do not offer the federal tax credits, but
they are required to offer the same menu of essential
benefits as Obamacare policies do, and they can’t deny
you coverage or charge extra for preexisting health
conditions. You might even find slightly lower premiums
on outside policies, assuming that you don’t qualify for
the tax credits.
Another possible reason for shopping outside the
marketplace is to find a plan that has your preferred
doctors and hospitals in its network. Many plans offered
in the Obamacare marketplaces provide a very limited
number of health care providers.
To shop for these policies, contact insurance companies,
brokers or agents and ask them if they offer policies
that are not available through the government
To find a local broker or agent that sells insurance
plans, check the National Association of Health
Underwriters website (nahu.org)
which has an online directory. But keep in mind that
agents won’t necessarily show you all available
policies, just the ones from insurers they work with.
You can also look for these plans at insurance shopping
sites like www.eHealthInsurance. com or
www.gohealth.com, which lists plans and providers
that may not be listed on Healthcare.gov.
If you only need health insurance coverage for a short
period of time before becoming Medicare-eligible,
another option you may want to consider is COBRA. COBRA
coverage allows you to remain on your former employer’s
group health plan for up to 18 months, but not every
employer plan is COBRA-eligible. Contact your employer
benefits administrator to find out if yours is.
In most cases COBRA is expensive, requiring you to pay
the full monthly premium yourself. But, if you’ve
already met or nearly met your employer plan’s
deductible or out-of-pocket maximum for the year, and
don’t want to start over with a new plan; or if you find
your employer’s health plan to be better or more
affordable that the government or off-marketplace
options, it makes sense to keep your current coverage
NEXT TUESDAY: Online memorials are growing.
Multiple resources available to determine value of old
May 27, 2014
Q: What resources can you
recommend for finding the value of old items? I
inherited a large number of old antiques and unique art
from my great-aunt, and I would like to find out what
some of these items are worth.
A: There are actually a number of resources and
online tools available today that can help you find out
the value of almost any item. Here are some tips to help
Get an appraisal
While many people use local antique shops or collectible
dealers to find out the value of old or unique items,
it’s usually best to use a certified appraiser who’s
accredited and meets professional and ethical standards.
Certified appraisers are more likely to give you a fair
judgment because there’s no conflict of interest. It’s
actually a violation of professional ethics for an
appraiser to offer to buy an item he or she has
A professional appraiser will provide you a written
report that includes a full description of your item and
the procedure used to estimate its current value. For
their service, you can expect to pay either a flat fee
or an hourly rate from $200 to $400 depending on their
expertise and location. Avoid an appraiser who asks for
a fee based on a percentage of the item’s value.
If an appraiser thinks an object isn’t worth a written
appraisal, he or she might recommend other resources to
arrive at a value.
To locate an appraiser either by location or specialty,
search online at one of the three professional
appraising organizations: The American Society of
800-272-8258) which has around 5,000 members worldwide;
Appraisers Association of America (www.appraisersassoc.org)
that has around 700 members; and the International
Society of Appraisers (www.isaappraisers. org) that has
You can also get estimates by professional appraisers
and other experts through a number of websites. How it
works is you upload photos of your items and provide
descriptions, and the sites send back valuations usually
within a week.
Sites that provide this type of service include Value My
which charges $10 for one appraisal, $25 for three or
$75 for 10, and WorthPoint (www.worthpoint.com),
which charges $30 for one item or $75 for three, or you
can pay $20 for a monthly membership that provides
unlimited access to their antique and collectibles
Another resource for finding out what antiques and
collectables are worth is Kovels (www.kovels.com,
800-829-9158), which offers a free basic membership that
gives you access to its online price guide, or you can
purchase one of their premium services that run $39 or
$60 a year. They also sell the “Kovels’ Antiques &
Collectibles Price Guide 2014” for $28 that reports on
recent prices paid for 35,000 items in more than 700
categories at auctions, shops, shows, flea markets, and
You may also be able to get an idea of what others are
willing to pay for your stuff by searching similar items
on the massive online auction site
ebay.com, or the classified ads site
craigslist.org. Both of these sites are free to
If you are interested in donating any of your items, you
can find out the taxdeductible value at free valuation
sites available year-round by tax-prep companies like
Turbo Tax at turbotax.intuit. com/personal-taxes/itsdeductible.
The Salvation Army also offers a valuation guide at
NEXT TUESDAY: Health insurance options for early
Seniors can receive help with computer issues from far
May 20, 2014
Are there any computer software products that you know
of that will let me help my parents with their computer
issues from afar? They are in their seventies and
frequently call me with their computer questions and
problems, but I live across town and don’t always have
time to get in the car and drive over to help them.
What’s available that can help us?
A: Helping an elder loved with computer questions or
problems over the phone can be frustrating and
difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of resources
available today that offer remote access software that
can easily help you assist your parents with their
computer issues from afar.
One of the best is TeamViewer, which is completely free
to use and works with Windows and Macintosh computers.
To get started, you and your parents will need to go to
TeamViewer.com and install their free software on
each of your computers. How-to videos are available on
their site to help with the installation.
Once installed – and with their permission – you will be
able to access your parents’ computer right from your
own computer wherever you are. Both machines must have
broadband Internet for this to work.
This software will give you the ability to actually see
what’s appearing on your parents’ computer screen, and
will let you remotely take charge of their computer so
you can show them how to do something, or you can do it
for them while they watch. Almost anything can be done
remotely with this software. You can even keep a live
video chat open at the same time you’re helping them.
If you are interested in shopping around, some other
free remote access programs worth a look include Chrome
Remote Desktop (go to
chrome.google.com/webstore and type in “Chrome
Remote Desktop” in the “Search the store” box to find
it), and SkyFex (skyfex.com),
which works only with Windows.
Skype also has a screen share feature (see
skype.com/en/features/scre en-sharing) that lets you
share your screen and video chat at the same time, but
you can’t actually take control of the other person’s
computer. You can only show them what they should be
doing by demonstrating it on your own desktop.
Professional tech support
If your parents need more tech support than you are able
to manage, another option to consider is to sign them up
with a tech support company like Geek Squad (geeksquad.com,
800-433-5778), which also offers remote access
capabilities to help your parents with almost any
Whenever they would need assistance, they could call the
Geek Squad toll-free number anytime, 24 hours a day, or
log in to their website.
A Geek Squad representative would then help them
initiate a remote access session, so they could remotely
show them how to do something, or make repairs or
adjustments to their computer. Once the call is
completed, the remote control access would be
disconnected from your parents’ computer.
In addition to the remote access help, Geek Squad tech
support also offers free antivirus software, they cover
up to three computers (or other devices), and provide
unlimited phone and in-person tech support at any Best
Buy store. Costs range from $200 for one year, $280 for
two years or $350 for three years, with a 15 percent
discount available to AARP members.
NEXT TUESDAY: What are your old items worth? There
are ways to find out.
Medicare covers majority of eye care issues for retirees
May 12, 2014
What types of senior discounts are available to older
travelers? My husband and I are approaching retirement
and love to travel, but love to save money, too.
A: There is actually wide variety of travel
discounts available to older travelers – usually
starting at either age 50, 55, 60, 62 or 65.
But, you first need to be aware that when it comes to
senior travel bargains, the “senior discount” may not
always be the best deal. Hotels, airlines and cruise
lines, for example, offer advanced bookings along with
special deals and promotions from time to time that may
be a lower rate than what the senior discount is. Always
ask about the lowest possible rate and the best deal
With that said, here’s a breakdown of some different
senior travel discounts that are available today.
Club memberships: If you’re a member of AARP,
there are dozens of travel discounts available on
hotels, rental cars, cruises and vacation packages. To
find them, see
discounts.aarp.org/travel or call 800-675-4318. The
annual AARP membership fees are $16 or less if you join
for multiple years.
If you don’t like AARP, there are alternative
organizations you can join like the Seniors Coalition or
the American Seniors Association that offer discounts on
hotels and rental cars.
Airlines: Southwest Airlines has the best senior
fare program in the U.S., offering discounts to
passengers 65 and older. American, United and Delta
offer some senior fares too but they are extremely
Trains: Amtrak provides a 15 percent discount to
travelers 62 and older, and a 10 percent discount to
passengers over age 60 on crossborder services operated
jointly by Amtrak and VIA Rail Canada.
Bus travel: Greyhound offers a 5 percent discount
on unrestricted fares to seniors over 62. Peter Pan,
which serves the Northeast region of the U.S., offers
the same deal. Trailways, a privately owned bus company,
also provides senior discounts but they vary by
location. And, most local bus lines and public
transportation offer discounted senior passes.
Car rentals: Most car rental companies offer 5 to
25 percent discounts to customers who belong to
50-andolder organizations like AARP. Discounts are also
available to AAA members. To shop around for the best
rental car deals use travel aggregator sites like
Hotels: Most hotels in the U.S. offer senior
discounts ranging between 10 and 30 percent off. Age
eligibility will vary by hotel. Hyatt offers one of the
biggest discounts, up to 50 percent off, to guests 62
Cruises: Most cruise lines offer special deals to
AARP members. But, if you’re not a member, discounts on
some cruise lines (like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal
Caribbean) are also available to passengers 55 and
older. The best way to find these is to contact a travel
agent, or check with the cruise line you’re interested
Restaurants: Senior discounts are fairly common
at mom-and-pop and familystyle restaurants, as well as
fast food establishments. The discounts will range from
free coffee, to drinks, to discounts off your total
order. Chains known for their senior discounts or
specials include Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Church’s
Chicken, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, IHOP, Subway and
Entertainment: Most movie theaters, plays,
ballets, symphonies, museums, zoos, aquariums, golf
courses and even ski slopes provide reduced admission to
seniors over 60 or 65. If you’re over 62, you’re also
eligible for the popular “America The Beautiful Senior
Pass,” which provides a lifetime entry to 2,000 national
parks and recreation sites.
You can obtain this pass in person at one of the federal
recreation sites for $10, or through the mail (see
store.usgs.gov/pass/senior.h tml) for $20.
To look for other travel discounts, see
www.seniordiscounts.com, a great website that lets
you search by location and category for free.
NEXT TUESDAY: Resources that help seniors with
computer questions and problems.