An old family friend recently asked me to be the
executor of his will when he dies. I feel flattered that
he asked, but I’m not sure what exactly the job entails.
What can you tell me?
Serving as the executor of your friend’s estate may seem
like an honor, but it can also be a huge chore. Here’s
what you should know to help you prepare.
the executor of your friend’s will, you’re essentially
responsible for winding up his affairs after he dies.
While this may sound simple enough, you need to be aware
that the job can be tedious, time consuming and
difficult depending on the complexity of his financial
and family situation. Some of the duties required
*Filing court papers to start the probate process (this
is generally required by law to determine the will’s
*Taking an inventory of everything in his estate.
*Using his estate’s funds to pay bills, including taxes,
funeral costs, etc.
*Handling details like terminating his credit cards, and
notifying banks and government agencies like Social
Security and the post office of his death.
*Preparing and filing his final income tax returns.
*Distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in his
Be aware that each state has specific laws and
timetables on an executor’s responsibilities. Your state
or local bar association may have an online law library
that details the rules and requirements. The American
Bar Association website also offers guidance on how to
settle an estate. Go to americanbar.org and type in
“guidelines for individual executors and trustees” to
If you agree to take on the responsibility as executor
of your friend’s estate, your first step is to make sure
he has an updated will, and find out where all his
important documents and financial information is
located. Being able to quickly put your hands on deeds,
brokerage statements and insurance policies after he
dies will save you a lot of time and hassle.
he has a complex estate, you may want to hire an
attorney or tax account to guide you through the
process, with the estate picking up the cost. If you
need help locating a pro, the National Association of
Estate Planners and Councils (naepc.org) and the
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (naela.org) are
great resources that provide directories on their
websites to help you find someone.
Find out if there are any conflicts between the
beneficiaries of your friend’s estate. If there are some
potential problems, you can make your job as executor
much easier if everyone knows in advance who’s getting
what, and why. So ask your friend to tell his
beneficiaries what they can expect. This includes the
personal items too, because wills often leave it up to
the executor to dole out heirlooms. If there’s no
distribution plan for personal property, suggest he make
one and put it in writing.
the executor, you’re entitled to a fee paid by the
estate. In most states executors are entitled to take a
percentage of the estate’s value, which usually ranges
anywhere from 1 to 5 percent depending on the size of
the estate. But, if you’re a beneficiary, it may make
sense for you to forgo the fee. That’s because fees are
taxable, but Uncle Sam in most states don’t tax
Mobile Safety Products that Can Help Seniors on the Go
Aug. 27, 2015
Do you know of any medical alert SOS buttons for seniors
that work away from the home? I would like to get one
for my 80-year-old mother, but would like to find one
that’s not limited to the house.
There are actually a number of medical alert products on
the market today that give seniors the flexibility to
call for help both inside and outside the home.
years, medical alert devices (also known as “personal
emergency response systems” or PERS) have been popular
home safety products for elderly seniors that live
alone. These systems come with a wearable SOS pendent
button - usually a necklace or wristband - and a base
station that connects to the home phone line.
At the press of a button, your loved one could call and
talk to a trained operator through the system’s base
station receiver, which works like a powerful
speakerphone. The operator will find out what’s wrong,
and will notify family members, a neighbor, friend or
emergency services as needed.
these devices are limited because they only work in and
around the house. If you’re away from home and need
help, you’re out of luck. But today, there are numerous
mobile products that work anywhere. Here are some top
If you’re interested in getting your mom a
comprehensive, high-end medical alert device that works
everywhere, consider the Philips Lifeline GoSafe system.
It provides a necklace pendent button, which works like
a two-way communication device, allowing your mom to
speak and listen directly through the pendant.
your mom were to fall or need help at home, she could
press the button and the home-base communicator system
would be activated to make the call to the response
center, who would then dispatch help as needed. But if
she fell or needed help away from home, the system’s
AT&T wireless network would kick in and place the call
system also has six sophisticated locating technologies
so the response center would know your mom’s exact
location, even where GPS signals are weak. And it has
fall detection sensors built into the pendent that can
automatically summon help if a fall is detected and your
mom is unable to push the button.
GoSafe is available at lifelinesys.com (or 855-276-7761)
for $149, with monthly services fees that start at $55.
the GoSafe is more than your mom needs, another option
that’s easier on the budget is the GreatCall Splash,
which costs only $50, with a $35 activation fee and
monthly service fees that starts at $20.
pendent-style waterproof device, which fits in the palm
of your hand, works like a cell phone with GPS tracking
capabilities, and can be worn on a belt, around the neck
or attached to a key chain.
call for help, your mom would push one button, and an
operator from the device’s emergency monitoring service
would be on the line to assist her, and because of the
GPS technology, her general location would be known. Or,
for even more peace of mind, there’s the Splash with
fall detection capabilities (this option costs $35 per
month, and the pendent must be worn around the neck for
it to work) that will automatically call for help when a
fall is detected.
Splash can be purchased at GreatCall.com (or
800-918-8543), or at Walmart, Sears, Best Buy and Rite
Aid Pharmacy stores.
If you want some additional options to shop and compare,
there are other good companies that offer moderately
priced mobile alerts, including Consumer Cellular (consumercellular.com/ally);
Bay Alarm Medical (bayalarmmedical.com); MobileHelp (mobilehelp.com);
Medical Alert (medicalalert.com); Life Alert (lifealert.com)
and SafeGuardian (safeguardian.com).
How to Reduce Your Medication Costs
Aug. 20, 2015
Can you recommend any tips to help me save on my
medication costs? I currently take five different
prescription medications that are very expensive even
There are actually a variety ways you can reduce your
out-of-pocket medication expenses without sacrificing
quality. Here are a few strategies that can help,
whether you are covered by employer-based health
insurance, a health plan on the individual marketplace,
or a private Medicare Part D drug policy.
your insurance formulary rules: Most drug plans today
have formularies (a list of medications they cover) that
place drugs into different “tiers.” Drugs in each tier
have a different cost. A drug in a lower tier will
generally cost you less than a drug in a higher tier,
and higher tier drugs may require you to get permission
or try another medication first before you can use it.
To get a copy of your plan’s formulary, visit your drug
plan’s website or call the 800 number on the back of
your insurance card. Once you have this information,
share it with your doctor so, if possible, he or she can
prescribe you medications in the lower-cost tiers. Or,
they can help you get coverage approval from your
insurer if you need a more expensive drug.
also need to find out if your drug plan offers preferred
pharmacies or offers a mail-order service. Buying your
meds from these sources can save you some money too.
generics: Ask your doctor or pharmacist if the
medications you’re taking are available in a generic
form or a less expensive brand-name drug. About 75
percent of all premium drugs on the market today have a
lower-cost alternative. Switching could save you between
20 and 90 percent.
Pay for generics yourself: Most generic medications
cost less if you don’t use your insurance. For example,
chains like Target and Walmart offer discount-drug
programs (these programs will not work in conjunction
with your insurance) that sell generics for as little as
$4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply,
while some insurance companies charge a $10 copayment
for a 30-day supply.
your pharmacy if they offer a discount-drug program and
compare costs with your insurance plan. You can also
find free drug discount cards online at sites like
NeedyMeds.org, which can be used at most U.S.
Split your pills: Ask your doctor if the pills
you’re taking can be cut in half. Pill splitting allows
you to get two months worth of medicine for the price of
one. If you do this, you’ll need to get a prescription
from your doctor for twice the dosage you need.
Try over-the-counter drugs: Ask your doctor if a
nonprescription medication could work as effectively as
a more expensive prescription drug. Many
over-the-counter drugs for common conditions such as
pain-relievers, allergy medications, anti-fungals and
cold-and-cough medicines were once prescription only.
But be aware that if you have a flexible spending
account or a health savings account, you’ll need to get
a doctor’s prescription for the over-the-counter drugs
(except insulin) to get reimbursed.
Shop around: Drug prices can vary widely from
drugstore to drugstore, so it’s definitely worth your
time to compare prices at different pharmacies. To do
this use GoodRX.com, a Web tool that lets you can find
prices on all brand name and generic drugs at virtually
every U.S. pharmacy.
Search for drug assistance programs: If your income
is limited, you can probably get help through drug
assistance programs offered through pharmaceutical
companies, government agencies and charitable
organizations. To find these types of programs use
BenefitsCheckUp.org, a comprehensive website that lets
you locate the programs you’re eligible for, and will
show you how to apply.
Medicare Options for Retirees who Travel
Aug. 13, 2015
What are the best Medicare coverage options for retirees
who travel a lot?
The best Medicare options for retirees who travel
extensively depends on your destination.
Let’s start with a quick review of the different
coverage choices Medicare offers beneficiaries today.
option is Original Medicare, which has been around since
1966, and covers (Part A) hospital services and (Part B)
doctor’s visits and other medical services.
you choose Original Medicare, you may also want to get a
Medicare (Part D) prescription drug plan (if you don’t
already have coverage) to cover your medication costs,
and a Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policy to help pay
for things that aren’t covered by Medicare like
copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.
Or, you could get Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan,
which is sold through private insurance companies, that
covers everything Original Medicare covers, plus many
plans also offer prescription drug coverage and extra
services like vision, hearing and dental care all in one
help you evaluate your options, the National Council on
Aging offers an online tool at MyMedicareMatters.org,
and your State Heath Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
provides free Medicare counseling - call 800-677-1116
for contact information.
can also shop and compare Medicare health and drug plans
and Medigap policies at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan, or
note that whatever Medicare plans you choose to enroll
in, if you find that they are not meeting your needs or
your needs change, you can always switch to a different
plan during the open enrollment period, which is between
Oct. 15 and Dec. 7.
you and your husband are planning to travel
domestically, Original Medicare provides coverage
everywhere in the U.S. and its territories (this
includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto
Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern
Mariana Islands and American Samoa) as long as the
doctor or hospital accepts Medicare.
if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your coverage may
be restricted. This is because most Medicare Advantage
plans (which are usually HMOs or PPOs) require you to
use doctors, hospitals and pharmacies that are in the
plan’s network within a service area or geographic
region. So if you’re traveling outside that area, you
may need to pay a higher fee, or your services may not
be covered at all.
Before enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, check the
benefit details carefully to see what costs and rules
apply when traveling outside your service area.
If you’re planning to travel abroad, Original Medicare
does not provide coverage outside the U.S. including
cruising, except in rare cases, and Medicare drug plans
will not cover prescription drugs purchased outside the
there are some Medigap policies that do provide limited
coverage abroad. Medigap C, D, F, G, M, and N plans will
pay for 80 percent of medically necessary emergency care
outside the U.S., but only for the first 60 days of the
trip, and you have to meet an annual $250 deductible
first. There’s also a lifetime maximum benefit of
$50,000, so you’d need to cover any costs above that
you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your coverage
outside the U.S. will depend on the plan. Some plans
offer emergency care coverage while others don’t. You’ll
need to check your plan for details.
you want additional emergency medical coverage when
traveling abroad, some good shopping sites are
squaremouth.com and insuremytrip.com, which compare
policies from major travel-insurance companies. Prices
vary considerably, ranging from under $100 to several
hundred dollars depending on your age, what they cover
and how long you’ll be away.
Financial aid for older adults going back to school
Aug. 5, 2015
there any financial aid resources you can recommend to
baby boomers who are interested in going back to school?
I’ve been thinking about taking some classes at a nearby
college, and wanted to check into financial aid
Looking For Aid
you know where to look, there’s quite a bit of financial
assistance out there that can help working baby boomers
and retirees go back to school. Here are some steps to
take that can help you find it.
Fill out the FAFSA form: A good place to start is by
filling out the Free Application for Federal Financial
Aid (FAFSA). This will help you learn about grants,
federal student loans (which are a better option than
private student loans), and even work-study jobs. But,
be aware that for most types of federal financial aid
you will need to be enrolled at least half time in a
degree or academic program to be eligible. To learn more
or to fill out an application online, visit fafsa.gov.
Or call 800-433-3243 and request a paper FAFSA.
Search for scholarships: While most scholarships are
aimed at traditional undergraduates, there are a number
of national and local scholarships offered specifically
to older, non-traditional students. To find them try
fastweb.com and scholarships.com. Both sites will prompt
you to enter your birth date to find ones that are age
Contact financial aid office: Call the financial aid
office at the college or university that you plan to
attend to see if they offer any other financial aid
options you may be eligible for. Also, find out if they
offer any special tuition wavers or discounts for
students over age 50. Many community colleges and some
four-year colleges offer discounted tuition rates, and
many allow older students to audit courses for free.
Seek a tax break: Uncle Sam may also be able to
help you with a tax credit, like the annual $2,500
American Opportunity Tax Credit, or the Lifetime
Learning Tax Credit, which is worth up to $2,000 per
year. Or, if you’re not eligible for the tax credits,
the government also provides tuition and fees deductions
for students that can cover up to $4,000 in expenses.
learn more, visit the IRS’s Tax Benefits for Education
Information Center at irs.gov - type in “tax benefits
for education” in the search bar to find it. Or call
800-829-3676 and request a copy of IRS Publication 970:
Tax Benefits for Education (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf).
Open a 529 account: If you don’t plan to go back to
school right away, you should consider opening up a 529
college-savings plan for yourself (see
savingforcollege.com). Available in every state, 529’s
allow you to save money for college tax-free. And in
many states you can even deduct part or all of your
contribution on your state tax return.
Sign up for a free or low cost MOOC: That’s the
acronym for the popular “Massively Open Online Courses,”
which offers thousands of certificate and no-certificate
courses by the best universities around the world. MOOCs
offer a free or cheap way to learn from their
instructors anytime, anywhere. See mooc-list.com to
search for courses.
Consider lifelong learning: If you’re interested in
taking classes just for fun, consider Lifelong Learning
Institutes (LLIs). These are noncredit educational
programs designed for retirees that involve no tests or
grades, just learning for the pure joy of it.
Usually affiliated with colleges and universities, LLIs
offer a wide array of courses in such areas as
literature, history, religion, philosophy, science, art
and architecture, finance, computers and more.
find an LLI, call your closest college or search the
websites of the two organizations that support and
facilitate them - Osher (osher.net) and Road Scholar (roadscholar.org/ein/intro.asp).
Together they support around 500 LLI programs
How to protect your eyes from macular degeneration
July 30, 2015
Is macular degeneration hereditary? My mother lost her
vision from it before she died a few years ago, and now
at age 65, I’m worried I may get it. What can you tell
Having a parent or sibling with macular degeneration
does indeed increase your risk three to four times. But
the good news is there are things you can do to protect
your eyesight, and a number of treatments that are
available if you do happen to get it. Here’s what you
Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular
degeneration (or AMD) is the most common cause of vision
loss in people over age 50, affecting about 10 million
is a progressive eye disease that damages the macula,
the part of the eye that allows us to see objects
clearly, causing vision loss in the center of your
vision. This affects the ability to read, drive, watch
television and do routine daily tasks, but it does not
cause total blindness.
There are two types of AMD - wet and dry. Dry AMD, which
affects about 90 percent of all people that have it,
progresses slowly and painlessly over a period of years.
While wet AMD is much more aggressive and can cause
severe vision loss in a matter of weeks or months.
Factors that can increase your risk of getting AMD
include age (60 and older); smoking; excessive exposure
to sunlight especially if you have light-colored eyes;
certain genetic components; a family history of AMD;
high blood pressure; obesity; and being Caucasian.
anyone over the age of 60, it’s a smart idea to get your
eyes examined by an ophthalmologist every year. They can
spot early signs of AMD before vision loss occurs. Early
signs, however, may include shadowy areas in your
central vision or unusually fuzzy or distorted vision.
The Amsler grid at amslergrid.org, is a good tool to
check your eyes for AMD.
While there’s currently no cure for AMD there are some
things you can do if you’re high risk. One option is to
talk to your doctor about taking a daily dose of
antioxidant vitamins and minerals known as AREDS -
vitamins C and E, plus copper, lutein, zeaxanthin, and
zinc. Studies by the National Eye Institute have shown
that AREDS can reduce the risk by about 25 percent that
dry AMD will progress.
drug stores sell these eye supplements in tablet or soft
gel form over-the-counter for around $20 to $30, but be
aware that not all eye supplements contain the proper
formulation. Choose either the PreserVision Eye Vitamin
AREDS Formula, PreserVision Eye Vitamin Lutein Formula,
PreserVision AREDS2 Formula, or ICAPS AREDS. These four
options contain the right formula mix.
Other lifestyle adjustments that may help prevent or
delay AMD include eating antioxidant-rich foods such as
dark green, leafy vegetables, and cold-water fish for
their omega-3 fatty acids; protecting your eyes from the
sun by wearing UV protective sunglasses; controlling
high blood pressure; exercising regularly; and if you
Wet AMD Treatments
For wet AMD, there are several effective medications (Lucentis,
Avastin and Eylea) available that can stop vision loss
and may even restore it. These medications are given by
injection into the eye, and repeated every month or two,
that each of these three drugs works equally in treating
wet AMD, but there’s a big cost difference. Avastin
costs just $50 per month, compared with $2,000 for the
other two. So experts recommend Avastin as the first
choice for most people with wet AMD, especially if you
don’t have supplemental Medicare coverage.
How to choose the best place to retire
July 23, 2015
My wife and I will both be retiring in a year or two and
are interested in moving to a smaller house in a better
climate but could use some help. What resources can you
recommend for locating and researching good places to
retire in the U.S.?
Looking To Relocate
If you’re interested in relocating when you retire, like
millions of other baby boomers, there are a wide variety
of free Web-based resources that can help you find and
research a new location that meet your wants, needs and
budget. Here are several to help you get started.
Where to retire?
you aren’t sure where you want to retire, a good place
to begin is by taking a retirement test at sites like
Sperling’s Best Places (bestplaces.net/fybp) or Find
Your Spot (findyourspot.com). These are free quizzes
that ask dozens of questions on your preferences such as
climate, recreation, community size and more, and
suggest possible destinations that best match your
There are also various media sources and websites, like
U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger’s, Forbes, Money
magazine, Reuters, Bankrate.com, TopRetirements.com, the
Milken Institute and AARP that publish top retirement
location lists you may find helpful too. To find them,
go to any search engine and type in “best places to
retire” along with the name of the media source.
should also consider getting a subscription to “Where to
Retire” magazine (wheretoretire.com, 713-974-6903),
which is designed to help you find ideal retirement
settings. A yearly subscription runs $18 for six issues.
you find a few areas that interest you, your next step
is research them. Here are some important areas you need
Cost of living: Can you afford to live comfortably in
the location you want to retire to? BestPlaces.net and
Numbeo.com offer tools to compare the cost of living
from your current location to where you would like to
move. They compare housing costs, food, utilities,
transportation and more.
Taxes: Some states are more tax friendly to retirees
than others. If you’re planning to move to another
state, Kiplinger’s has a tax guide for retirees at
Kiplinger.com/links/retireetaxmap that lets you find and
compare taxes state-by-state. It covers income taxes,
sales tax, taxes on retirement income, Social Security
benefits taxes, property taxes, and inheritance and
Crime rate: To evaluate how safe a community or area is,
NeighborhoodScout.com is a top tool that provides
property and violent crime rates, and crimes per square
Health care: Does the area you want to relocate to have
easy access to good healthcare? To locate and research
hospitals in a new area, use HospitalCompare.hhs.gov and
QualityCheck.org. To search for new doctors that accept
your insurance, contact your plan, or, if you’re 65 or
older use Medicare.gov/physiciancompare. It’s also
important to know that healthcare costs can vary by
region, so you should contact your insurer to check out
possible cost variables.
Transportation: If you plan to travel much, or expect
frequent visits from your kids or grandkids, convenient
access to an airport or train station is a nice
advantage. You should also investigate alternative
transportation options, since most retirees give up
driving in there eighties. To do this contact Rides in
Sight (ridesinsight.org, 855-607-4337), a free
transportation referral service, and the Area Aging
Agency - call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to
get the local number.
To learn more about specific communities across the
U.S., AARP’s new livability index (livabilityindex.aarp.org)
along with Epodunk.com and GangsAway.com are three
excellent resources, as well as the city’s chamber of
commerce office. To locate it, go to any search engine
and type in the name of the city and state followed by
“chamber of commerce.”
When and how Social Security checks are delivered
July 23, 2015
I plan to apply for my Social Security benefits in
September. When can I expect my first check? And, is
direct deposit my only option for receiving my monthly
Generally, Social Security retirement benefits (as well
as disability and survivor benefits) are paid in the
month after the month they are due. So, if you apply for
your Social Security benefits in September, you will
receive your September benefits in October.
day of the month you receive your benefit payment,
however, will depend on either your birthdate, or the
birthdate of the person whose work record you’re
receiving benefits on.
you’re applying for benefits as a retired worker, your
benefit payment day will be determined by your own
birthdate. But if you’re applying for spousal or
survivors benefits based on your spouse’s or (if you
were married at least 10 years) ex-spouse’s work record,
your benefit payment date will be determined by his or
her birthdate. Here’s the schedule of when you can
expect to receive your monthly check:
* Birthdate is 1st through 10th of month:
Payment day is second Wednesday of each month.
* Birthdate is 11th through 20th of month:
Payment day is third Wednesday of each month.
* Birthdate is after the 20th of the month:
Payment day is fourth Wednesday of each month.
There are, however, a few exceptions to this schedule.
For example, if the day your Social Security check is
supposed to be deposited happens to be a holiday, your
check will be deposited the previous day. And, if you
are receiving both Social Security benefits and SSI
payments, your Social Security check will be deposited
on the third day of the month.
should also know that Social Security beneficiaries who
started receiving benefits before 1997, their Social
Security checks are paid on the third day of the month.
To get a complete schedule of 2015 payment dates, visit
There are two ways you can receive your Social Security
benefits today. Most beneficiaries choose direct deposit
into their bank or credit union account because it’s
simple, safe and secure. But, if you don’t like this
option or if you don’t have a bank account that your
payments can be deposited into, you can get a Direct
Express Debit MasterCard and have your benefits
deposited into your card’s account.
card can then be used to get cash from ATMs, banks or
credit union tellers, pay bills online and over the
phone, make purchases at stores or locations that accept
Debit MasterCard and get cash back when you make those
purchases, and purchase money orders at the U.S. Post
Office. The money you spend or withdraw is automatically
deducted from your account. And you can check your
balance any time by phone, online or at ATMs.
There’s also no cost to sign up for the card, no monthly
fees and no overdraft charges. There are, however, a few
small fees for optional services you need to be aware
of, like multiple ATM withdrawals. Currently,
cardholders get one free ATM withdrawal per month, but
additional monthly withdrawals cost 85 cents each not
including a surcharge if you use a non-network ATM. To
learn more about the Direct Express Debit MasterCard,
visit usdirectexpress.com or call 800-333-1795.
Choosing a Home Blood Pressure Monitor
July 10, 2015
Can you recommend some basic simplified cellphones for
seniors with hearing loss? My 82-year-old father needs
to get a new cellphone for occasional calls or
emergencies, but he needs something that’s easy to use
and one that he can hear on.
There are several simplified cellphones on the market
today that are specifically designed for seniors -
including those with hearing loss. These are basic
cellphones that come with big buttons, easy to navigate
menus, SOS emergency buttons, enhanced sound and are
hearing aid compatible too. Here are some top options.
your dad isn’t locked into a cellphone contract, there
are three senior-friendly options to consider, all from
no-contract cellphone companies.
of best is GreatCall’s Jitterbug5 (greatcall.com,
800-918-8543). This custom designed Samsung flip-phone
offers a backlit keypad with big buttons, large text on
a brightly colored screen, and “YES” and “NO” buttons to
access the phone’s menu of options versus confusing
also offers voice dialing, a powerful speakerphone, a
built-in camera, and a variety of optional health and
safety features like the “5Star” medical alert button
that would let your dad call for help and speak to a
certified agent 24/7 that could identify his location
and dispatch help as needed. “Urgent Care,” which
provides access to registered nurses and doctors for
advice and diagnoses. And “GreatCall Link,” which keeps
family members informed through your dad’s phone
Jitterbug5 sells for $99 with a one-time $35 activation
fee, no-contract, and calling plans that start at $15
you’re looking for something a little less expensive,
the Doro PhoneEasy 626 sold through Consumer Cellular (consumercellular.com,
888-345-5509) is an excellent option.
flip phone offers a backlit, separated keypad that can
speak the numbers as you push them, which is a nice
feature for seniors with vision problems. It also has a
big easy to read color display screen that offers large
text with different color themes.
Other handy features include two speed dial buttons,
shortcut buttons to texting and the camera, a powerful
two-way speakerphone, and a ICE (in case of emergency)
button on the back of the phone that will automatically
dial one preprogramed number.
Doro 626 sells for $50 with service plans starting at
$10 per month, and no long-term contract. They even
offer discounts to AARP members.
Another budget-friendly cellphone you should look into
is the Snapfon ezTWO for seniors (snapfon.com,
800-937-1532), which costs under $20, with a $35
activation fee, no-contract, and monthly service plans
that start at $10. If you don’t want the Snapfon service
plan (you can go through AT&T or T-Mobile), the phone is
is a bar-style phone that provides big buttons, a color
screen, enhanced volume with a speaker phone, a speaking
keypad, and an SOS emergency alert button on the back of
the phone that can sound an alert when pushed and held
down for five seconds. It then sends a text message to
as many as five emergency contacts and calls those
contacts in order until the call is answered. Or, for an
additional $15 per month you can subscribe to their SOS
monitoring service that will dispatch help as needed.
Shared plan options
If you want to get your dad a simple cellphone through
your cellphone provider, most carriers - like AT&T,
Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile - still offer a few basic
cellphones that are inexpensive and hearing aid
you’re an AT&T customer the option is the “LG A380.” For
Verizon users, there’s the “Samsung Gusto 3” and “LG
Revere 3.” If you’re a Sprint customer there’s the
“Kyocera Kona” and “Alcatel OneTouch Retro.” And for
T-Mobile users there’s the “LG 450.”
How seniors can tame pet care costs
July 2, 2015
Dear Savvy Senior,
What tips can you recommend to help senior pet owners
with their veterinary bills? I have two cats and a dog
that are family to me, but their vet bills have become
high cost of veterinary care has become a problem for
millions of pet owners today, but it can be especially
difficult for seniors living on a fixed income. Routine
medical care can cost hundreds of dollars, while
urgent/specialized treatments and procedures can run
into the thousands. But, it is possible to reduce your
pet care costs without sacrificing their health. Here
are some tips that can help you save.
around: If you’re not attached to a particular
veterinarian, call some different vet clinics in your
area and compare costs. When you call, get price quotes
on basic services like annual exams and vaccinations, as
well as bigger-ticket items, like to repair a broken
leg, so you can compare. Also, check to see if you live
near a veterinary medical school (see aavmc.org for a
listing). Many schools provide low-cost care provided by
students who are overseen by their professors.
your vet for help: To help make your vet bills more
manageable, see if your vet’s office accepts monthly
payments so you don’t have to pay the entire cost up
front. Also, find out if your vet offers discounts to
senior citizens or reduces fees for annual checkups if
you bring in multiple pets.
Search for low-cost care: Many municipal and nonprofit
animal shelters offer free or low-cost spaying and
neutering programs and vaccinations, and some work with
local vets who are willing to provide care at reduced
prices for low-income and senior pet owners. Call your
local shelter or humane society to find out what’s
available in your area.
for financial assistance: There are a number of state
and national organizations that provide financial
assistance to pet owners in need. To locate these
programs, the U.S. Humane Society provides a listing on
their website that you can access at humanesociety.org/petfinancialaid.
cheaper medicine: Medicine purchased at the vet’s office
is usually much more expensive than you can get from a
regular pharmacy or online. Instead, get a prescription
from your vet (ask for generic is possible) so you can
shop for the best price.
pharmacies such as Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Kmart, Rite
Aid and Target fill prescriptions for pets
inexpensively, so long as that same drug is also
prescribed to humans. And, many pharmacies offer pet
discount savings programs too.
can also save by shopping online at one of the
Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites
accredited by the National Association of Boards of
Pharmacy, like 1-800-PetMeds (1800petmeds.com), Drs.
Foster & Smith (drsfostersmith.com), KV Supply (kvsupply.com),
and PetCareRx (petcarerx.com).
Consider pet insurance: If you can afford it, pet
insurance is another option worth looking into. You can
get a basic policy for under $10 per month, and some
insurers provide discounts for insuring multiple pets.
See petinsurancereview.com to compare policies.
Membership discount plans like Pet Assure (petassure.com)
are another way to save, but you’ll need to use a vet in
Look for other ways to save: In addition to cutting your
veterinary bills, you can also save on pet food and
other supplies depending on where you shop. Target,
Walmart, Costco and the dollar stores typically offer
much lower prices than supermarkets and specialty
retailers like Petco and PetSmart. You can also save on
treats and toys at sites like coupaw.com and
Helping seniors learn new technology
June 24, 2015
What teaching resources can you recommend to help
seniors learn how to use computers, tablets and
smartphone devices? At age 72, I am interested in
joining the technology revolution so I can keep up with
my kids and grandkids a little better, but I need help.
There are lots of different technology teaching tools
available to boomers and seniors today, but what’s
available to you will depend on where you live. Here are
some different places and to look for help.
Classes and Workshops
There are many communities that offer beginning computer
and personal technology classes for older adults that
are new to technology. To find out what’s available in
your area, contact your local public library, senior
center, college or university, or local stores that sell
computers. Your Area Agency on Aging may also be able to
help you - call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to
get your local number. If you can’t find any local
programs that meet your needs, here are some national
resources that offer technology training in select
SeniorNet: This organization offers a variety of basic
online computer courses as well as instructor-led
workshops at 36 learning centers throughout the United
States. A first year membership fee of $43 is required.
See SeniorNet.org or call 239-275-2202 for more
Oasis Connections: Provides primarily free computer,
Internet and mobile technology classes in 30 U.S.
cities. They partner with local libraries, job help
centers, senior centers and faith-based organizations
where these classes are offered. OasisNet.org/connections,
314-862-2933 ext. 272.
Lifelong Learning Institutes (LLIs): Usually affiliated
with colleges and universities, LLIs offer a wide array
of noncredit courses to retirees, and some may offer
technology courses. To find an LLI that offers
computer/technology classes, contact your closest
colleges or search the websites of the two organizations
that support and facilitate them - Osher (osher.net) and
Elderhostel (roadscholar.org/ein/intro.asp). Together
they support around 500 LLI programs nationwide.
TEK Workshops: Available to everyone, TEK workshops are
free technology learning events on tablets or
smartphones and are offered in various cities throughout
the U.S. AARPTEK.org, 202-434-3021.
Older Adults Technology Services (OATS): If you live in
New York City, OATS provides free tech training to
seniors in 70 locations throughout the city. OATS.org,
There are also a wide variety of books you can purchase
that can help you learn how to use different types of
technologies. Visual Steps (visualsteps.com), for
example, offers a number of practical and accessible
computer handbooks, software user guides and other
instructional materials that are tailored specifically
for seniors, as does the “For Dummies” books (dummies.com),
which you can buy in book stores nationwide or online at
sites like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
If you already have a computer and some computer and/or
Internet skills, but would like to expand your
knowledge, there are a number of online services you can
turn to that offer a wide variety of self-paced
technology lessons and instructional videos.
good ones to checkout include GCFLearnFree.org, which is
supported by the Goodwill Community Foundation and is
completely free to use. And MyPCSchool.com, which is
privately owned and offers nearly 700 lessons for $39
for three months or $79 for one year.
check out TechBoomers.com, a free educational website
that teaches seniors with basic computer skills about
frequently used websites, and Geekatoo.com, which offers
tech support house calls in all 50 states, and offers
two-hour tutorial instruction for $79.
Choosing a Home Blood Pressure Monitor
June 18, 2015
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you offer me any tips on choosing a home blood
pressure monitor? I just found out I have high blood
pressure, and my doctor told me I need a monitor for the
house so I can keep an eye on it.
Almost everyone with high blood pressure or
prehypertension should have a home blood pressure
monitor. Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your
blood pressure in a comfortable setting. Plus, if you’re
taking medication it will make certain it’s working, and
alert you to a health problem if it arises. Here are
some tips to help you choose a good monitor.
two most popular types of home blood pressure monitors
on the market today are (electric and/or battery
powered) automatic arm monitors, and automatic wrist
an automatic arm monitor, you simply wrap the cuff
around your bicep and with the push of one button the
cuff inflates and deflates automatically giving you your
blood pressure reading on the display window in a matter
Wrist monitors work similarly, except they attach to the
wrist. Wrist monitors are also smaller in size and a bit
more comfortable to use than the arm monitors, but they
tend to be a little less accurate.
help you choose the best monitor for you, here are
several things you need to check into:
* Fit: Using a cuff that’s the wrong size can
result in a bad reading. Most arm models have two sizes
or an adjustable cuff that fits most people. Make sure
your choice fits the circumference of your upper arm.
* Accuracy: Check the packaging to make sure
the monitor has been independently tested and validated
for accuracy and reliability. You can see a list of
validated monitors at dableducational.org.
* Ease of use: Be sure the display on the
monitor is easy to read and understand, and that the
buttons are big enough. The directions for applying the
cuff and operating the monitor should be clear.
* Extra features: Many monitors come with
additional features such as irregular heartbeat
detection that checks for arrhythmias and other
abnormalities; a risk category indicator that tells you
whether your blood pressure is in the high range; a
data-averaging function that allows you to take multiple
readings and get an overall average; multiple user
memory that allows two or more users to save previous
readings; and computer connections so you can download
the data to your computer.
* Portability: If you plan to take your
monitor with you while traveling, look for one with a
Where to Shop
You can find blood pressure monitors at pharmacies,
medical supply stores or online, and you don’t need a
prescription to buy one.
price will typically range anywhere from $30 to $120 or
more. Unfortunately, original Medicare does not pay for
home blood pressure monitors unless you’re receiving
dialysis at home. But if you have a Medicare Advantage
plan or a private health insurance policy it’s worth
checking into, because some plans may provide coverage.
of the best arm monitors as recently recommended by
Consumer Reports include the Rite Aid Deluxe Automatic
BP3AR1-4DRITE; iHealth Dock BP3 (requires an Apple iOS
device); Omron 10 Series BP786; A&D Medical UA767F; and
the ReliOn BP200. And the top recommended wrist monitor
is the Omron 7 Series BP652.
After you buy a monitor, it’s a good idea to take it to
your doctor’s office so they can check its accuracy and
teach you the proper techniques of how and when to use
more information on how to measure your blood pressure
accurately at home, see the American Heart Association
Blood Pressure Monitoring tutorial page at
How to compare and locate senior housing options
June 11, 2015
Dear Savvy Senior,
you go over the different types of housing options
available to seniors, and recommend some good resources
for locating and choosing one? I need to find a place
for my elderly mother, and could use some help.
There’s a wide array of housing options available to
seniors, but what’s appropriate for your mom will depend
on her needs and financial situation. Here’s a rundown
of the different levels of senior housing and some
resources to help you search.
Independent living: If your mom is in relatively good
health and is self-sufficient, “independent living
communities” are a good place to start. Typically
available to people over age 55, this type of senior
housing is usually apartments or town homes that are
fully functional. In addition, many of these communities
also offer amenities such as meals served in a common
dining area, housekeeping, transportation and a variety
of social activities.
locate this type of housing, contact your Area Agency on
Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number), or
use online services like newlifestyles.com and
caring.com. Most of these communities are private-pay
only, and run anywhere from $1,000 to over $4,000 per
that’s too expensive, another option is “senior
apartments,” which are often subsidized by HUD for lower
income seniors. You can locate these through your local
housing authority or online at hud.gov - click on “Find
Assisted living: If your mom needs some help with daily
living activities, an “assisted living facility” is
another option. These facilities provide personal care
(like bathing, dressing, eating, going to the bathroom)
as needed, as well as meals, housekeeping,
transportation, social activities and medication
management. Many facilities also offer special care
units for residents with dementia. Costs typically run
between $2,000 to $5,000 or more per month. Most
resident’s pay for assisted living from personal funds,
and some have long-term care insurance policies. But,
some states now have voucher plans that let you use
Another similar, but less expensive option to look into
is “board and care homes.” These offer many of the same
services as assisted living facilities but in a much
smaller home setting.
Area Aging Agency is again a good resource for finding
these facilities, as are the previously listed senior
housing locater websites. And for help choosing a
facility, the Assisted Living Federation of America
offers an excellent guide at alfa.org/checklist.
Nursing homes: If your mom needs ongoing medical and
personal care, a “nursing home,” which provides 24-hour
skilled nursing care, is the next option. To find a good
one, use Medicare’s nursing home compare tool at
medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare. But be aware that
nursing home care is very expensive, costing anywhere
between $4,500 and $11,000 per month depending on
location. Most residents pay from either personal funds,
a long-term care insurance policy, or through Medicaid
after their savings are depleted.
Continuing-care retirement communities (CCRC’s): If your
mom has the financial resources, a “CCRC” is another
excellent option that provides all levels of housing
(independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing
home care) in one convenient location. But, these
communities typically require a hefty entrance fee that
can range from $20,000 to $500,000 or more, plus ongoing
monthly service fees that vary from around $1,000 to
over $5,000. For more information see carf.org/aging.
Consider hiring an aging life care expert (aginglifecare.org)
who can evaluate your mom’s situation, and find
appropriate housing for a fee - usually between $300 and
$800. Or, you can use a senior-care advising service
like A Place for Mom (aplaceformom.com, 866-344-8005)
for free. (They get paid from the senior living
facilities in their network.)
other helpful resources include the National
Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information (longtermcare.gov),
and your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (shiptalk.org),
which provides free counseling.