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Live Life On Your Own Terms

inheritanceStereotypes – including those held by economists and retirement analysts – are just plain wrong, it turns out.

Seniors are not spending all their money on health care and long-term care. They’re not splurging on round-the-world cruises or other big-ticket, bucket list items. And they’re not living in such abject poverty that they need to survive on cat food.

According to studies by the Employee Benefit Research Institute [EBRI] and the Society of Actuaries [SOA], most retirees are living frugally but comfortably, thank you.

caregivers need care tooSome 43.5 million Americans are currently unpaid caregivers, a 2015 study found. The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman working almost 60 hours a week – more than 34 hours outside the home plus over 24 more hours caring for an elder female. And teetering at the edge of caregiver burnout.

Bad as those numbers may sound, they’re going to get worse. As Baby Boomers age, the younger demographic cohorts who follow them will be smaller in number, putting more pressure on fewer caregivers to care for more elders. And that pressure takes a toll on caregivers’ physical and emotional health.

In that 2015 study, more than 20 percent of caregivers – almost 9 million people – reported that caregiving worsened their health, with mood changes, anxiety, aches and pains, stress overeating, and sleep disorders including insomnia.

So if you’re a caregiver, it’s vitally important to take care of yourself.

fallsEvery 19 seconds, an American 65 or older dies from something easily preventable:

A fall.

And in the four minutes or so it takes to read this post, an average of 22 seniors will have fallen and hurt themselves badly enough to be rushed to emergency rooms.

According to a CDC report released this month, deaths from falls increased by 31% over the past decade.

No one’s immune to falls. On May 24 of this year, Charlotte Fox, who’d survived a near-fatal blizzard near the top of Mount Everest and had become the first American woman to successfully scale three 26,247-foot-high mountains, “apparently slipped on the hardwood stairs in her four-story house, fell and suffered fatal injuries,” the Aspen Times reported. “She was 61.”

But while falls can be fatal, they can also be preventable, by addressing their three main causes – environmental, physical, and medical.

medicareSometime between now and year’s end, a new Medicare card will show up in your mailbox. Instead of your Social Security number, it will have a unique, 11-digit, randomly assigned Medical Beneficiary ID number to protect against identity theft. What’s more, that number will be good for not only Medicare, but also other programs, including Medicaid, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and Special Needs Plans (SNPs).

But while that new card is the first and most visible Medicare improvement, other new, more valuable changes, are less obvious. That’s because they give seniors with multiple or chronic medical issues new resources for aging in place.

On February 9, President Trump signed the CHRONIC (Creating High-quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic) Care Act of 2018 into law. And this law offers valuable new benefits – particularly for the 19 million Americans who signed up for Medicare Advantage plans:

senior walking 300x226Two long-term British medical studies have discovered warning signs of dementia and heart disease risk in an unlikely place – at your feet. Specifically, they found that older adults who walk more slowly are more likely to develop dementia and heart disease.

According to a study published in the March 6, 2018, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, University College London and University of Nottingham researchers discovered this correlation when they examined data from 3,932 over-60 adults participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. In 2002-2003 and again in 2004-2005, they recorded participants’ walking speeds. Then, between 2006 and 2015, they checked the participants’ yearly follow-up assessments.

There were more dementia cases, they found, among the slower walkers – especially those whose walking slowed the most between the first time their walks were measured and the second time, two years later.