July-Aug 2013 E-zine

This Issue's Highlights:
· Seniors and School
· Seniors in Poverty
· Slow Unwanted Communications

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by Betsy J Day

When the grandkids ask us this question, it's an easy one to answer: everybody needs an education; you need it get a good job; to "train your brain"; you want to be smart, don't you? And BECAUSE WE SAY SO!

But when it comes to us seniors, we have to ask that question a little differently. Why SHOULD we go to school? Do WE need to get more education? Why? Do we want to find out what's changed in our world since we left school for the last time? Or do we need or want to be around younger people, want to know what and how they're thinking? Or, since complete retirement may not an option for us, financially--to keep our brains sharp.

When we begin to think of retirement, or later, when we've actually retired, we often neglect to think of "going back to school" when we think of all the things we want or plan to do now that we have "all the free time in the world." It also needs to be mentioned here that for may people, retirement ain't what it usta be. Some of us find that we have to begin a whole new era (and method) of job-hunting, and maybe an altogether new career. It may be in the cards for us to go back to school, not by choice, but because we need to learn some skills that kids now are growing up with.

Fortunately, opportunities for education abound no matter what our previous job experience or formal degrees. Colleges and junior colleges in every state offer free audit courses for seniors--usually without homework or final exams--and some of them offer for-credit courses at low or no cost. Special scholarships may be available for seniors who enroll in higher education. Find them in a search engine at (enter your state)+college courses+free+ senior citizens). Note that federal loans for education are available to seniors, as well as to young people just beginning their higher education careers.

Additionally, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI), set up at nearly 120 universities across the country, strive to meet the needs of older learners. Seniors can tap into these courses at and be directed to a campus near them that is part of the OLLI network. While the courses are different from campus to campus, "the common threads remain: non-credit educational programs specifically developed for seasoned adults who are aged 50 and older; university connection and university support; and a diverse repertoire of intellectually stimulating courses." What more could you ask for?

Some colleges and universities participate in OpenCourseWare, which are free online courses with instructor participation. The Carnagie Mellon Institute, UC Berkeley, MIT, Yale, Stanford, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology are only a few examples of participants (there are at least one hundred of them). You can find out more about this consortium at If you need a little more incentive to go back to college or to begin as a first-timer, remember that there's a $10,000 lifetime senior citizen federal tax deduction for higher education.

The mission of your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA or LOA) is to make services and options available to seniors so they can remain active, contributing members of the community for as many years as possible. In many communities, the AAA operates senior centers that offer classes in crafts, computer training, and other types of opportunities. (Of course, they are also the providers of Meals on Wheels and other services to people unable to leave their homes, and often welcome your volunteer services.)

Experience Works (, currently active in 30 states and Puerto Rico, is an umbrella organization sponsored by the Older American Act's Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP, pronounced "SEE-sep"). SCSEP offers paid training through state agencies, and offers part-time positions, generally at state minimum wage, to seniors who complete the program.

Many seniors are familiar with the former Elderhostel program, which is now called Road Scholar ( Road scholars may choose to travel the world or their own back yards and partake of unique learning experiences, from crime scene forensics to archeology, to helping to run a camp for children suffering from cancer, to cooking in the style of Julia Child. There are some budget-friendly courses, and scholarships are available. No college credit here, but you may have the added bonus of meeting potential friends who have some of the same interests that you do.

My personal confession is that compiling the information and writing this article for the current issue of was an eye-opener for me. Though I've taken classes here and there over the years, I haven't really concentrated on any specific field of study, nor have I thought deeply about going back to school. However, I've just signed up for an online course in logic and critical thinking through Stanford University, and my hope is that I'll learn enough to make some better decisions about the role of education in the rest of my life.

For more information on seniors' education generally, go to

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During recent deficit reduction discussions, policymakers have debated whether to increase Medicare beneficiariesí contributions toward their medical care and reduce the cost of living adjustment to Social Security benefits. Having a clear picture of the extent of poverty among seniors, both nationally and at the state level, is important in the context of these debates. Traditionally, the Census Bureau has estimated poverty rates using the "official" poverty measure, which was created in the early 1960s. Some have expressed concern that the official measure is outdated and does not accurately reflect individuals' incomes or financial resources.

In response, the Census Bureau released an alternative measure for the first time in 2011, which is known as the supplemental poverty measure and defines income and poverty differently than the official measure. The Census Bureau has reported that poverty rates among the elderly (those ages 65 and older) are higher under the supplemental poverty measure (15%) than under the official poverty measure (9%), which is due in large part to the fact that the former deducts health expenses from income.1

the share of seniors in poverty

Analysis has shown the share of seniors in poverty is higher under the supplemental measure than the official measure in every state; the difference is especially large in some states. For example:

  • In 12 states, poverty rates among seniors are at least twice as high under the supplemental measure as they are under the official measure: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • In New Hampshire, the share of seniors living in poverty is nearly three times as high (17% under the supplemental measure compared to 6% under the official measure).

Source: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, accessed 6.4.2013,

Learn more about financial help for seniors at:

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1. Retiring Too Early
Many people are not prepared to retire early, but they do give it a try. A key warning flag is if you plan to withdraw more than 4% of your retirement assets in the first year. The initial year tends to foretell how much you will take in later years. Thus it indicates whether you will have enough to last for your full retirement. Another key consideration is health insurance. If you are not in the Medicare age range, then you will need to fill the gap between the end of your employment and the Medicare start. Social Security options deserve your attention. Taking early Social Security payments at age 62 comes with reduced benefits. Waiting until full retirement age (somewhere between 65 and 67), you'll receive full benefits. Not receiving your full benefits should be weighed against allowing your money to continue growing tax-free in your 401(K) plan.

Learn more about financial help for seniors at:

2. Selecting the Right Provider
Here are recommendations for those searching for a caregiving provider:

  • Focus on the type of care needed: Determine if the provider specializes and understands different diseases and the type of care needed. Someone with a cognitive impairment requires caregivers with special skills to do special tasks. A company that has different levels of expertise can be very helpful as needs change and grow.
  • Have a care plan: It is the plan that the company and caregivers are accountable to. It will ensure goals are met and progress is documented. The plan can consist of caregiver activities and duties, diet specifications for the patient and any other information relative to the recipient's care.
  • Employees vs. independent contractors: How does the provider company engage the caregiver? Are they W2 employees of the company or independent contractors? A W2 relationship can offer better training and supervision, and thus higher care quality.
  • Employee Insurance is important: Does the candidate provider have workers' compensation for its employees? The homeowner is liable for the caregiver's medical costs if the employer does not have workers' compensation insurance.
  • Home visits by provider: Expect the company case manager to make home visits on a regular basis to review caregiver performance and results. The visit should include a meeting with both the patient and family members without the caregiver present. Of course, ongoing communication with the provider and caregiver is essential.

Learn more about caregiving at


We present here some words from those with a birthday this period.

Giorgio Armani - "It always depends on how it's done--it mustn't be overtly exhibitionist."

Suzanne Vega - "There are no rules in fights with girls. Just hurting."

Milton Berle - "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

Christine McVie - "You can only mend the vase so many times before you have to chuck it away."

Bill Cosby - "In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."

More "Thoughts" at:

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1. Finding Lower Gasoline Prices
With gas prices going up with the vacation season, this is a good time to review some money-saving techniques for gas.

  • Visit a warehouse club: Buy gas at a warehouse club (i.e. Costco). It may be 4-5 cents cheaper than at a gas station. Club membership is usually required.
  • Use a GPS with Internet-provided local gas prices: Some GPS systems can connect and download local gas prices. Google Local Search also can provide a view of local gas prices.
  • Consider a gas rebate credit card: Credit card rebates can save anywhere from 1-3%.
  • Focus on fuel-efficient driving: Conserving gas is as good as finding a low price. Here are some tips:
    • Avoid fast starts from a red light;
    • Don't speed up to avoid a light;
    • Drive with an even speed;
    • Check your tires for proper inflation
    • Avoid carrying extra weight in your car.
Do visit our on-line tool to find prices in your area. Find it here:

2. Slow Down Unwanted Communications

Telephone calls:

  • Register on "Do Not Call." Register by phone at 1-888-382-1222. Or register online at
  • File a complaint at if the calls continue after three months.
  • Political and charitable organizations may still call you even if you've registered.
  • Get an unlisted and unpublished phone number.
  • Watch out for do-not-call scams posing as a state do-not-call program.
  • Get more information on reducing telemarketing calls at
Junk Mail:
  • Call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) to stop most unsolicited pre-approved credit offers. Or opt out online at
  • Sign up for the Direct Marketing Associationís DMAchoice. At
Junk Email (spam):
  • Never respond to spam.
  • Never buy anything advertised in spam.
  • Protect your email address as you would other personal information.
  • Sign up for the Direct Marketing Associationís DMAchoice. At
  • Report spam to your Internet service provider (ISP).

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1. The Making of a "Lead Foot"

  • Your friends choose to carpool with you not to save gas but to save time.
  • You need three states just to go on a joyride.
  • You have a suspended driver's license in all 50 states.
  • When you stop you leave a mile-long skid mark.
  • You married your spouse because they had a Corvette.
2. Early Wireless
After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in an LA newspaper read: "California archaeologists' discovery of 200-year-old copper wire has led to the conclusion that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers."

One week later, a local newspaper in Kentucky reported the following: "After digging as deep as 30 feet in her pasture near Hazard, KY, Sally Sue, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that she found absolutely nothing. She has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Kentucky had already gone wireless."

"Oh My Aging Funny Bone" is at:


This issue has been edited by Betsy Day ([email protected]).

Copyright 2013, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products, service and companies named herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders and are solely responsible for the content of their articles. Articles are included for informational purposes and are not an endorsement.

This Copyright E-zine may be forwarded to others only if sent in its entirety. Other uses are subject to written permission of the publisher.

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