Every Day a lot of Seniors are Robbed. Don’t be One of Them

Stanley Podolski, 88 with wife of 66 years, Eleanor, 85-yrs-old. - he foiled a fraud.

Stanley Podolski, 88 with wife of 66 years, Eleanor, 85-yrs-old. – he foiled a fraud.

Do you know that each year, hundreds of thousands of American seniors are robbed of their hard earned retirement funds

“Every year, hundreds of thousands of seniors are victims of fraud and theft,” says Ann Harkins, president and CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council. Then she adds, “Many Americans cannot ID the red flags of fraud, and they are not familiar with what to look for.”

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What No One Tells You about Being a Senior

Health Secrets

Being a senior can be a lot of things.

Being a senior can be a lot of things.

Each time I forget something, my children will immediately say, “that’s a sign of old age.”

Each time I complain of back or knee pains, my children will immediately say, “that’s a sign of old age.”

Each time I ogle at women, I am told, “you’re too old for her.”

And if I get to date with one, I get sarcastic, even insulting comments like “At your age? How did you manage to make out?”

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A Superb Weekend of Sand, Sea and Sky with My Beautiful Children

Health Secrets

Son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, son (l to r)

Son-in-law, daughter, daughter-in-law, son (l to r)

What makes you happy?

I mean really happy even the passage of time cannot diminish the forming of a smile of joyful contentment on your old and wrinkled face each time you think about it?

Call me corny or overly melodramatic, but mine was the superb weekend with my children where we immersed ourselves in sand, sea and sky within a bubble of pure, unadulterated togetherness.

What made it extra memorable is where we spent it in – in Hennan Resort in Panglao, Bohol, Philippines.

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How Virtual Reality is Reshaping the Lives of Seniors

Health Secrets

Rendever, a startup company, is working towards a future where seniors with physical disabilities can travel through Virtual Reality.

Hold on! What the heck is Virtual Reality? Is it one of those gobbledygooks nerds frequently come up to make our lives more complicated and impersonal?

Impersonal? Yes. Complicated? No!

Virtual Reality, or VR, is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted within a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

VR is not really something new. The concept first emerged in 1838 with Charles Wheatstone’s stereoscope. But it was not until 1929 when Edward Link invented the “Link trainer,” the first commercial flight simulator.

Now it has found application in a lot of things including the one developed by MIT graduate students Dennis Lally and Reed Hayes that can potentially reshape the lives of seniors.

Working with the men and women at the Brookdale Senior Living Community, their technology allows the seniors to take a trip to the French countryside, soar through Yosemite National Park, and explore the depths of the ocean floor, among others, using the power of virtual reality.

Says Hayes, “I feel for the people living inside these communities, that they don’t have enough stimulation…They need to have a sense of wonder about the world again, they need to be curious, they need to be exploring. And when you’re physically not able to do that by yourself, then virtual reality is a wonderful aid to provide that.”

Vanessa Rosenzweig, a resident for two years and participant of the study, said, “When I tour I ask a hundred questions,” just like she does on an actual tour.

Marion Keefe, another resident, found the experience more meaningful – she got to “visit” her home.

When asked by Lally if she recognized her house, she said, “Yeah. Well, wait a minute,” Keefe said, putting her hands to her mouth, getting emotional. “Oh, don’t say that. That’s the most beautiful area in the world.”

The experience touched off emotions among the participants. It made them feel something.

Not everybody is as optimistic as Lally and Hayes, however.

One of them is Gayatri Devi, a neurologist. Though he concedes that virtual reality does, indeed, has the power to stimulate, but the brain is a complex organ that benefits from real connection.

“Nothing can ever replace human touch and human interaction,” says he. Then added, “It needs to be able to feel the texture of the place, it needs to be able to smell the place, it needs to be able to taste the place.”

So what next? A VR that can make you taste, smell, and touch your favorite dish or the love of your life?


Changing Behaviors:

To the west across the U.S., in Stanford University in California, Professor Jeremy Bailenson is working on a higher level of virtual reality which, he said, can make your wildest dreams come true – virtually

He calls it the Virtual Human Interaction Lab.

With it, “You can grow a third arm, you can travel the world, you can go to the bottom of the ocean,” said Bailenson. Then added “And the possibility to do things we could never imagine possible, is really neat.”

Still in its development stage, Bailenson said, “Virtual reality is not a media experience. When done well, it’s an actual experience…In general, our findings show that VR causes more behavior change, causes more engagement, cause for influence than other types of traditional media.”

To prove his point, he tried out his system to virtually learn new skills like blocking hockey pucks, and training his body to react quickly during an earthquake.

It can ever go deeper, like transforming your gender or race to allow you to experience the trauma of being off-white, or non-standard.

While the research related with his Virtual Human Interaction Lab shows that it can change the way people react to other people, but I think allowing one to virtually change his or her gender or race can create delusions among the elderly rather than make them more understanding of other people’s quirkiness.


The Flipside:

Just like anything else, if done to excess and in the wrong way, it can be harmful.

Virtual reality is potentially addictive. Once you put it on and start experiencing a completely new world, albeit virtual, it can consume you, according to Bailenson.

The feeling of actually being there can be so intense that it is not recommended for children below 13 years old, and 30-min breaks are recommended when using it.


Virtual reality benefits for seniors:

Right now there are over 100 clinical research papers showing endless benefits of virtual reality to people of all ages. But the most marked are with elderly people and those living in aged care facilities.

It has reduced feelings of isolation, and improved socialization. It made people, as a group, become more animated and some, those suffering from dementia and have problems speaking coherent sentences, suddenly start gabbing full paragraphs and engaging others.

Virtual reality has also shown to be effective in managing chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

The movements, the choices, and the simulation provide patients with fun and

Sense of peace and freedom are experienced by patients despite the conditions they are in.

A typical example is a 103-yr-old patient who enjoyed her virtual experience in a beach in Hawaii, including a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

Let’s face it elderly people are a melancholy lot. They are fond of reminiscing the good old days, i.e., their childhood, their teen years, college life, first crush, their families and the other significant events in their lives – pleasant or unpleasant.

Even without goggles, we are always immersed within a variety of experiences through the years. Some are so vivid to make us laugh or cry, while others flit in and out of our consciousness.
They are always with us, keeping us excited, alive and hopeful.

Wouldn’t it be great to add color, sound and a wider array of choices and twists to these memories that we can manipulate according to our whims and desires?

That is virtual reality in a nutshell.

What do you think? Go virtual or real? Please share your thoughts.



How to Stretch Your Pennies and Dimes if You’re on Social Security

Health Secrets

Enjoying Social Security retirement (with a little help from children).

Enjoying Social Security retirement (with a little help from children).

Retirement is awesome if you are healthy and have money stashed somewhere.

Retirement is good if you and your spouse (if you still have one) are living in a mortgage-free home, and your children are done with college.

Retirement is blissful if you are near your children, and surrounded by supportive and well-intentioned friends.

Retirement is excellent if you have a dozen or so grandchildren with each one wanting to sit on your lap to read them stories.

Retirement is delightful if you can go on a vacation at least once a year.

But retirement SUCKS if you have barely anything of the above and living off Social Security benefits like Bernard “Bernie” Karpinkski.

Bernie and Violet, have been married 60 years. Bernie was working as an electrician, while Violet as a bank secretary when both decided to retire.

During their working days, they lived frugally and saved money for their retirement.

Things did not work out as planned (as they normally do). Shortly after they both stopped working, Violet was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bernie’s world suddenly and totally got turned upside down. Instead of taking a vacation, it forced him to put Violet in an assisted living center where he had to spend $6,700.00/month in the center’s Alzheimer’s wing.

With his savings wiped out, he now solely relies on Social Security benefits to get by.

Bernie is not alone, however. According to the Social Security Administration, more than 90% of people aged 65+ are currently living off Social Security benefits. Nearly one in five married retirees, and one in two unmarried retirees are living off pennies and dimes vis-à-vis the average monthly expenses of an elderly.


Formula for Destitution:

According to The Motley Fool, the average monthly expenses of elderly folks (65 and older), is around $3,600.00/month. On the other hand, the average Social Security benefit of a 62-yr-old person (the official age for Social Security benefits) in 2014 was $1,992.00/month.

So if you are living off Social Security, you don’t need a degree in Arithmetic to know how extremely difficult it is to make both ends meet.

Because of this huge disparity, a lot of seniors survive through food stamps, or line up in soup kitchens.

Ironic, isn’t it?

After spending all their lives making a living and supporting the “system,” the “system” can’t support them now when they need it the most. It’s a big letdown and a blow to their self-worth.

However, not everything is doom and gloom for an elderly on Social Security. There are some bright spots but they require making tough decisions, and a total change in lifestyles.

Here are some.

How to stretch your pennies and dimes to survive:

1.  Cut your credit card (if you have one) to pieces:
Credit cards are bad for debt-free living. They tempt you to overspend and even if you pay within the billing period, the service fee still makes your purchases a little expensive.

They are like termites eating up on our savings without you knowing it.


2.  Sell your house (if you own one):
This is a bitter pill to take especially if you have been living there a long time to establish some roots.

It’ oozes with sentimental value, i.e., your children were born and grew up there, probably even got married. It is in a neighborhood you are so familiar with, even among close friends and relatives. Just the thought of doing it is gut-wrenching.

But if push comes to shove, it is a smart thing to do if you are living off Social Security benefit and, at the same time wants to enjoy your retirement.


3.  Move to a retirement community:
There are several across the U.S. They are not exactly cheap but you have a lot of choices.

They can range from more than $3,000.00/month, to less than a thousand. It depends on the state and the services that come with the package.

It has some pros and cons, like being uprooted from the community you have grown old in, and transplanted into a new one with people you barely know.

But the cost of living is definitely cheaper and it automatically comes with a support group which is crucial if you are living alone.


4.  Find a buddy:
Find a buddy you can pool resources and share expenses with.

It’s always cheaper to buy in bulk and it is almost certain you can find someone who will just be too willing to save a few pennies here and there.


5.  Buy on bargains or discounts:
Bargains and discounts are excellent ways to save a few pennies and they are always available. It’s all a matter of knowing where they are and what they are selling off.


6.  Move to a state that don’t tax Social Security benefits:
When it comes to taxes, not all states are created equal. California has the highest income tax rates, while Maine has the lowest.

Similarly, some states tax Social Security whiles others don’t. The U.S.News.com lists twelve states that don’t. They have a different property sales tax rates, though.

Be sure to do your homework before moving into any one of these to avoid frequent migration.


7.  Go south:
Going south is going where the climate is rather temperate to warm.

It is cheaper to cool a house than warm it, and you don’t need to have wardrobe of winter clothes.

You don’t need to shovel off snow from your driveway, either, or change tires during the winter months.

Besides, people in more temperate or warm climates, are friendlier, happier and more easy-go-lucky. They are quick to smile and easier to make friends with.


8.  Move to a cheaper country:
This is the best option to stretch your Social Security benefits. But it is as difficult to jump into as selling your home.

You can live in a very luxurious house in an incredibly upscale neighborhood complete with all the conveniences of life, plus a house to attend to your needs.

There are several of such countries in Asia. Foremost of them is the Philippines. There are currently 27,000 retirees from 107 countries living in the country through a special visa. There are more if we count those who married local women.

The weather is sunny the year round, the people are friendly, language is no problem and the amenities of modern living are all within your fingertips.

I retired early from work and has been depending on Social Security since then. Needless to say, my retirement has been a constant nightmarish situation when my savings dried up.

It is so nightmarish to see the ref practically empty, to search for money for children’s education, when the car was practically running dry.

I did not know how I managed to hang on, to stay sane until my children finished college. Now things are a little bit better, but not completely alright – thanks to the little help my children give me each month.

But you may not be similarly situated as I am. You may be entirely on your own with no children or relatives to help you out.

If you are, and you are depending solely on Social Security benefits, then the above tips will take you a long way in stretching your pennies and dimes and still have a wonderful retirement.

Please share with us your thoughts on this. Thanks.


Discover How Sister Madonna Buder became The Iron Nun

Health Secrets

86-yr-old Triathlete: Sister Madonna Buder, the Iron Nun

86-yr-old Triathlete: Sister Madonna Buder, the Iron Nun

This is a story of the life-changing powers of the mind that can come to us anytime of our lives – even in later years.

Sister Madonna Buder was born Marie Dorothy Buder in July 1930 in St. Louise, Missouri.

At age 14, she decided to become a nun. At age 20, she entered the convent, coming out as a nun when she was 23.

She achieved her first calling.

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Raimundo: He Hang on to his Dreams for 37 Years

Health Secrets

His dreams came true after 37 years

His dreams came true after 37 years

Would you hang on to your dreams if you live on the streets, no shelter over your head, no means to attend to your personal hygiene, rely on the handouts of a few goodhearted passersby to keep you alive?

That’s a tough call, right? Pursuing one’s dreams is very challenging, often difficult even under the best circumstances. It requires vision, perseverance, tenacity, and a huge amount of luck.

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How to Make Marriage Last Long: from the World’s Longest Married Couple

Health Secrets

Herbert and Zalmyra Fisher - till death do us part.

Herbert and Zalmyra Fisher – till death do us part.

Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher are both dead (Herbert in 2011 at age 105, and Zelmyra two years later). But not before they left behind some wonderful foods-for-thought for married couples.

First: In 2008, they won the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest living married couple.

At that time they have been married for 84 years – since May 13, 1924.

Second: In 2010, they opened a joint Twitter account to answer questions about marriage for Valentine’s Day, with this tagline:

“Tweet relationship questions to the world’s longest-married couple! Together for 85 years, Herbert+Zalmyra Fisher will tweet back on Valentine’s Day.”

Third: They left behind these wonderful bits of wisdom for married couples which can withstand the test of time. These are:


What made you realize that you could spend the rest of your lives together? Were you scared at all?
With each day that passed, our relationship was more solid and secure. Divorce was NEVER an option, or even a thought.


How did you know your spouse was the right one for you?
We grew up together and were best friends before we married. A friend is for life; our marriage has lasted a lifetime.


What advice to someone who is trying to keep the faith that Mr. Right is really out there?
Zelmyra: Mine was just around the corner! He is never too far away, so keep faith – when you meet him, you’ll know.


Is there something you would do differently after more than 80 years of marriage?
We wouldn’t change a thing. There’s no secret to our marriage, we just did what was needed for each other and our family.


You got married very young – how did you both manage to grow as individuals yet not grow apart as couple?
Everyone who plants a seed and harvests the crop celebrates together. We are individuals, but accomplish more together.


What is your fondest memory of your 85-year marriage?
Our legacy: 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 9 great grand-children and 1 great-great grandchild.


Does communicating get easier with time? How do you keep your patience?
The children are grown, so we talk more now. We can enjoy our time on the porch or our rocking chairs – together.


What are the most important attributes of a good spouse?
A hard worker and good provider. The 1920s were hard, but Herbert wanted and provided the best for us. I married a good man.


How did you cope when you had to be physically separated for long periods of time?
Herbert: We were apart for 2 months when Z was hospitalized with our 5th child. It was the most difficult time of my life. Zelmyra’s mother helped me with the house and the other children, otherwise I would have lost my mind.


What’s the one thing you have in common that transcends everything else?
We are both Christians and believe in God. Marriage is a commitment to the Lord. We pray with and for each other every day.


At the end of a bad relationship day, what is the most important thing to remind yourselves?
Remember marriage is not a contest – never keep score. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win.


Is fighting important?
Never physically. Agree that it’s ok to disagree, and fight for what really matters. Learn to bend – not break.


What was the best piece of marriage advice you ever received?
Respect, support, and communicate with each other. Be faithful, honest, and true love. Love each other with ALL your heart.

Herbert and Zalmyra’s marriage is simply amazing, compared to current marriages which are like staying in a halfway house. Their enduring love for each other is exceptional. They deserve the honor bestowed on them by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Inspiring it may be, but difficult feat to beat. Whereas people are living longer these days, most of them will be singles by the time they reach old age because of divorce or death.

In 2014, 40 to 50% of marriages in the U.S. ended up in divorce or annulment – for several reasons.

Huffington Post featured an article showing the ten most common reasons for the shocking ending to this well-prepared, often expensive “I do…till death do us part,” ceremony.

They are nothing new. They have been circulated so many times they don’t warrant a second read – if it is to be read at all.

But the bottom line is this: People often don’t know what they are getting into when they tie the knot together.

They think that just because they miss a good night’s sleep when they don’t see each other for a day is reason enough to get married. They take marriage simply as sharing a bed, or sharing expenses, going out to dinner once a week, or a vacation every year.

Marriage is like welding two pieces of steel together. At the joint, each has a part of the other. Even if you pry them loose, they are never quite the same again. And each will be weaker compared to their original selves.

My marriage lasted 37 years until my wife died from cardiac arrest. That was 7 years ago. Our marriage was not a bed a roses, but it was neither that prickly either. But for the sake of the children, we were determined to keep it intact, till death do us part.

My point and that of Herbert and Zalmyra’s is that marriage is not something you just spew out if you don’t like its taste. It is like seasoning food to make it palatable to both. It may take a long time to get it right, but the effort and the wait is worth it.

Do you have any comment? I would love to entertain them.


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